“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune….”
-William Wordsworth, 1806
Ever feel like “the world is too much with us”?
Germans have a word for it – weltschmerz – which means a feeling of melancholy and world-weariness. That’s how I feel, after the Friday afternoon dump of a ruling from that judge in Georgia.
Maybe we can hop into a warp-speed spaceship and head to Planet Z.
9News reports, Feb. 3, 2012, that astronomers say they have found a potentially habitable planet (which I call Planet Z) outside our solar system with temperatures that could support water and life, about 22 light-years from Earth.
Data from the European Southern Observatory say that Planet Z is one of three planets orbiting around an M-class dwarf star known as GJ 667C, which puts out much less heat than our Sun. GJ 667C is part of the Gliese 667 triple-star system in the constellation Scorpius.
The Earthlike planet appears to be close enough to GJ 667C that it likely absorbs about as much incoming light and energy as Earth, has similar surface temperatures and perhaps water.
Planet Z orbits its star every 28.15 days – meaning its year equals about one Earth month – and has a mass at least 4.5 times that of Earth, according to the research published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Guillem Anglada-Escud, a member of the team that conducted the research, said: “This planet is the new best candidate to support liquid water and, perhaps, life as we know it.” But whether the planet indeed has water can’t be confirmed until astronomers learn more about the planet’s atmosphere.
Some experts have been skeptical that M-class dwarf stars could have planets that support life because they are too dim and tend to have lots of solar flare activity, which could send off lethal radiation to nearby planets. But even though GJ 667C has a much lower abundance of elements heavier than helium, such as iron, carbon, and silicon – the building blocks of terrestrial planets – than our Sun, astronomers are intrigued by the possibilities.
Anglada-Escud’s co-author, Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said: “This was expected to be a rather unlikely star to host planets. Yet there they are, around a very nearby, metal-poor example of the most common type of star in our galaxy. The detection of this planet, this nearby and this soon, implies that our galaxy must be teeming with billions of potentially habitable rocky planets.”
French astronomers in May last year confirmed the first exoplanet, Gliese 581d, to meet key requirements for sustaining life. It is a rocky planet about 20 light-years away. Swiss astronomers reported in August that another planet, HD 85512 b, about 36 light-years away seemed to be in the habitable zone of its star. The US space agency NASA confirmed its first such planet late last year, Kepler 22b, about 600 light-years away.