Size comparison of Gliese 581d with Earth and Neptune.
(Based on selected hypothetical modeled compositions)
|Discovered by||Udry et al.|
|Discovery site||La Silla Observatory, Chile|
|Discovery date||24 April 2007|
|Epoch JD 2451409.762|
|0.21847 ± 0.00028 AU (32,683,000 ± 42,000 km)|
|66.87 ± 0.13 d|
|56 ± 27|
|Semi-amplitude||1.91 ± 0.22|
|2.20  R⊕|
Gliese 581d // (often shortened to Gl 581d or GJ 581d) is a possible extrasolar planet orbiting within the Gliese 581 system, approximately 20.4 light-years away in the Libra constellation. It is the third planet claimed in the system and (assuming a six-planet model) the fifth in order from the star.
Though not confirmed to be a terrestrial planet and significantly more massive than Earth (at 6.98 Earth masses), the Super-Earth is the first exoplanet of terrestrial mass proposed to orbit within the habitable zone of its parent star.
Assuming its existence, computer climate simulations have confirmed the possibility of the existence of surface water and these factors combine to a relatively high measure of planetary habitability.
A team of astronomers led by Stéphane Udry of the Geneva Observatory used the HARPS instrument on the European Southern Observatory 3.6 meter telescope in La Silla, Chile, to discover the planet in 2007. Udry's team employed the radial velocity technique, in which the mass of a planet is determined based on the small perturbations it induces in its parent star's orbit via gravity.
In September 2012, Roman Baluev filtered out the "red noise" from the Keck data and concluded that this planet's existence is probable only to 2.2 standard deviations. That same year, however, a team from the USNO confirmed the existence of the planet with a much higher probability.
A study in 2014 concluded that Gliese 581d is "an artifact of stellar activity which, when incompletely corrected, causes the false detection of planet g." In 2015, a study by Guillem Anglada-Escudé and Mikko Tuomi discounted the 2014 analysis and concluded that the planet could exist.
Gliese 581d orbits Gliese 581 at 0.21847 AU, approximately a fifth of the distance that the Earth orbits the Sun, though its orbital eccentricity has not been confirmed. There are currently two models for its orbit, a circular one like Earth's, and an eccentric one like Mercury's. These are based on the four planet and six planet model for the Gliese 581 system, respectively. Under the four planet model Gliese 581d would most probably be in a spin-orbit resonance of 2:1, rotating twice for each orbit of its parent star. Therefore, the day on Gliese 581d should approximately be 67 Earth days long.
The orbital distance places it at the outer limits of the habitable zone, the distance at which it is believed possible for water to exist on the surface of a planetary body. At the time of its discovery, the planet's orbit was originally thought to be farther out. However, in late April 2009 the original discovery team revised its original estimate of the planet's orbital parameters, finding that it orbits closer to its star than originally determined with an orbital period of 66.87 days. They concluded that the planet is within the habitable zone where liquid water could exist, thus confirming previous studies. Moreover, the data  also suggested that the proposed exoplanet  could have at least one or more large oceans.
The motion of the parent star indicates a minimum mass for Gliese 581d of 5.6 Earth masses (earlier analyses gave higher values). Dynamical simulations of the Gliese 581 system assuming that the orbits of the three planets are coplanar show that the system becomes unstable if the masses of the planets exceed 1.6–2 times the minimum values. Using earlier minimum mass values for Gliese 581d, this implies an upper mass limit for Gliese 581d of 13.8 Earth masses. The composition of the planet, however, is not known.
Climate and habitability
As the planet is not known to transit from Earth and atmospheric conditions are not observable with current technology, no atmosphere for the planet has been confirmed to date. As such, all climate predictions for the planet are based on predicted orbits and computer modelling of theoretical atmospheric conditions.
Because Gliese 581d was believed to orbit outside the habitable zone of its star it was originally thought to be too cold for liquid water to be present. With the 2009 revised orbit, climate simulations conducted by researchers in France in 2011 indicated possible temperatures suitable for surface water at sufficient atmospheric pressure According to Stéphane Udry, "It could be covered by a 'large and deep ocean'; it is the first serious ocean planet candidate."
On average, the light that Gliese 581d receives from its star has about 30% of the intensity of light the Earth receives from the Sun. By comparison, sunlight on Mars has about 40% of the intensity of that on Earth. That might seem to suggest that Gliese 581d is too cold to support liquid water and hence is inhospitable to life. However, an atmospheric greenhouse effect can significantly raise planetary temperatures. For example, Earth's own mean temperature would be about −18 °C without any greenhouse gases, ranging from around 100 °C on the day side to −150 °C at night, much like that found on the Moon. If the atmosphere of Gliese 581d produces a sufficiently large greenhouse effect, and the planet's geophysics stabilize the CO2 levels (as Earth's does via plate tectonics), then the surface temperature might permit a liquid water cycle, conceivably allowing the planet to support life. Calculations by Barnes et al. suggest, however, that tidal heating is too low to keep plate tectonics active on the planet, unless radiogenic heating is somewhat higher than expected.
Gliese 581d is probably too massive to be made only of rocky material. It may have originally formed on a more distant orbit as an icy planet that then migrated closer to its star. Its equilibrium temperature is 181 Kelvin.
A major detrimental factor which may prevent life from forming and it being an inhabitable planet is the fact that Gliese 581 is a variable star.
Hello from Earth
As part of the 2009 National Science Week celebrations in Australia, Cosmos magazine launched a website called "Hello from Earth" to collect messages for transmission to Gliese 581d. The maximum length of the messages was 160 characters, and they were restricted to the English language. In total, 25,880 messages were collected from 195 countries around the world. The messages were transmitted from the DSS-43 70 m radio telescope at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla, Australia, on 28 August 2009.
In popular culture
- Earth analog
- Gliese 581g
- Gliese 667 Cc
- Habitable zone
- HD 85512 b
- Kepler 22 b
- List of potentially habitable exoplanets
- Planetary habitability
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- "Visit Doctor Who's spectacular colony world... In Valencia".
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- National Science Week 2009 - Send A Message To Gliese 581d
- Wordsworth, R. D.; et al. (2010). "Is Gliese 581d habitable? Some constraints from radiative-convective climate modeling". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 522: A22. arXiv:1005.5098. Bibcode:2010A&A...522A..22W. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201015053.
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