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New planet found!

This has got to be the coolest piece of news I've heard in YEARS:

New planet found

and more about it here.

It's called, for now, Gilese 581 C. Like, and yet unlike. Too far away to go investigate, but close enough to study. It's small enough to have a reasonable gravity (more than twice ours, but still within reason), in the right temperature zone to have liquid water on its surface (0-40 deg C), and orbiting one of our closer neighbors (about 20 light-years away).

So now, for the first time ever, we have evidence that our environmental conditions are not unique. We've taken another step in our understanding of our place in the universe, from the central purpose of all creation, to lonely encampment on the edge of a vast wasteland, to (possibly) one of many such encampments. We haven't found another fire twinkling in the dark, but we've found another potential campsite. And that alone is huge news.

And we have a focus of study, and a new reason to keep looking. Our study of Gilese 581 C will lead to more discoveries, posssibly even more Earth-like, possibly even closer. We will invent better instruments to study them, build probes to explore them, possibly even find a way to visit them ourselves.

But all that is in the future. Today, it's enough that we can look up into the sky and see, for the first time, not a vast expanse of nothingness, but a true final frontier.
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