Red dwarf star Gliese 581 as seen from the surface of extrasolar planet Gliese 581 c
There is special interest in Gliese 581 c because it is the only known extrasolar planet where liquid water--a necessary ingredient for life as we know it--could exist. Surface temperatures are believed to range between the freezing point of water to about 100° F. However, there are other factors that could affect these values, including the possibility that Gliese 581 c always keeps the same side facing its host star, with the result that one side would become extremely hot while the other extremely cold.
In this image from the surface of Gliese 581 c, its red dwarf host hangs low in the sky over a rocky and watery terrain. This sun has a diameter and radius about a third that of the earth's sun's and it is only about 1/100th as bright. It appears large in the sky because Gliese 581 c orbits relatively close to this red dwarf, completing an orbit in only 14 days.
Copyright © Walter B. Myers. All rights reserved.
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