Steven Vogt of UC Santa Cruz has been getting a lot of attention lately for his discovery of a “Cinderella” exoplanet – one right in the habitable zone of its star. Officially called Gliese 581g, he’s unofficially named it after his wife, who happens to have an excellent moniker herself — Zarmina. I think she’s from Earth, but her name is otherworldly, and just the sort of name you want to hang on a newly discovered world. Lively discussions are underway as to whether Zarmina (the planet, not the lady) might be actually habitable, and if so, by what. Vogt has, entertainingly, assured us that life does exist there. Paul Gilster at the superb blog Centauri Dreams has some excellent coverage of the whole question — and manages to fold a lovely review of Percival’s Planet into the mix, too.
Zarmina has an orbital period of 37 days, orbiting at a distance of 0.146 AU from its star. Its mass appears to be 3.1 to 4.3 times that of Earth, with a radius of 1.3 to 2.0 times that of Earth. Its mass indicates that it is probably a rocky planet with a solid surface. It’s about 20 light years from us — a mere stroll in astronomical terms.