'Habitable Zone' for alien planets redefined

Planets

"It's a surprise that Earth is so close to the inner edge of the habitable zone," said astronomer Abel Mendez of the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, who was not part of the team behind the redefinition.

"Right now as I see it as a significant change. Many of those planets that we believe were inside are now outside. But on the other side, it extends the habitable zone's outer edge, so a few planets that are farther away might fall inside the habitable zone now," Mendez said.

He mentioned one planet in particular, Gliese 581d, was thought to lie at the outer edge of its star's habitable zone. With the new definition, though, it falls almost smack in the middle, making it perhaps a better candidate for extraterrestrial life.

The new habitable zone definition will be published in the Astrophysical Journal.

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