Gliese 832c

Could It Be the Closest Inhabitable Exoplanet?

Could It Be the Closest Inhabitable Exoplanet?

From NASA comes a photo comparing Earth with the planet Gliese 832c. According to the Astronomy Picture of the Day website:

This planet is only 16 light years away—could it harbor life? Recently discovered exoplanet Gliese 832c has been found in a close orbit around a star that is less bright than our Sun. An interesting coincidence, however, is that Gliese 832c receives just about the same average flux from its parent star as does the Earth. Since the planet was discovered only by a slight wobble in its parent star’s motion, the above illustration is just an artistic guess of the planet’s appearance—much remains unknown about Gliese 832c’s true mass, size, and atmosphere. If Gliese 832c has an atmosphere like Earth, it may be a super-Earth undergoing strong seasons but capable of supporting life. Alternatively, if Gliese 832c has a thick atmosphere like Venus, it may be a super-Venus and so unlikely to support life as we know it. The close 16-light year distance makes the Gliese 832 planetary system currently the nearest to Earth that could potentially support life. The proximity of the Gliese 832 system therefore lends itself to more detailed future examination and, in the most spectacularly optimistic scenario, actual communication—were intelligent life found there.

Since Neil deGrasse Tyson very effectively demonstrated that none of the other planets or planetoids in our solar system is inhabitable, I guess I’ll have to cancel my vacation plans for the Big Red Spot on Jupiter. (You really should see the video clip that comes with this link: He’s really quite good.)

By the way, you’ll notice in the above quote that NASA fudged a bit on the “photo” of Gliese 832c. If you’ll look closely you’ll see Spain, France, and North Africa through the clouds. I guess the point was to make Gliese 832c a more welcoming destination than, say, Syria, Pakistan, the Gaza Strip, or anywhere Ken Ham chooses to call home.