Back in late September 2010, Astronomers made an important discovery that may eventually change the way we view our place in the cosmos.
The story begins with the all together average star Gliese 581 The star is a spectral class M3 main sequence dwarf, not dissimilar to the image below.
An artist's impression of an M class dwarf Credit: NASA/Walt Feimer
At roughly 31% the mass of the sun but only 1.3% its luminosity (that is taking all wavelengths into account not just visual i.e. its Bolometric luminosity).
The star is classified as a variable star due to fluctuations in its brightness over time.
To be more specific it is a BY Draconis variable star as the variability (if confirmed as it currently falls close to the accepted margin for false detection) is expected to be caused by the presence of starspots (the general name for a sunspot that occurs on a star other than the sun) combined with the star’s rotation.
Whilst the star is interesting it is what is orbiting it that has caused the media interest in it on and of since spring 2007.
Gliese 581 Credit: Digital Sky Survey / ESO
The star has been a ...