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 The best place for new life

picture2003-10-09 12:25:07 -- It is the 37th brightest star in the constellation of Gemini to be precise, 42 light-years away from Earth and rather like our own Sun.

The star, 37 Gem, is top of a shortlist of the 30 most promising places to look for life drawn up by Maggie Turnbull of the University of Arizona in Tucson, US.

"This stable, middle-aged star is just a bit hotter and brighter than our Sun," she told New Scientist magazine.

"And if alien life is anywhere, it's likely to be there."

To come up with 37 Gem, she whittled down a list of 5,000 stars within 100 light-years of Earth.

Young, violent stars were discarded as were those which look nothing like our Sun.

With so many to choose from, the obvious candidates are the nearest and most Earth-like.

'Long-shot'

The work is part of long-term plans to pinpoint other worlds capable of supporting life with deep-space telescopes.

The US space agency (Nasa) is launching its Terrestrial Planet Finder in the next decade or so, while the European Space Agency (Esa) plans to station a flotilla of telescopes called Darwin 1.5 million kilometres from Earth.

Dr Malcolm Fridlund, Darwin Project Scientist for Esa, says Turnbull's list covers those closest to Earth where Seti scientists could conceivably pick up a radio signal.

"Seti is a long-shot," he told BBC News Online, "but if you want to look for life you have to limit yourself to a small number of places; you can't look everywhere."
Thursday, 9 October, 2003 bbc news




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