Illustration for article titled What a colony might look like on Zarmina, the newly-discovered second Earth

Yesterday scientists announced the discovery of the first Earthlike planet in another solar system. Find out why colonies on planet Zarmina would have a view like this, of a huge sun always in the process of setting.


Painting by Don Dixon.

Officially known as Gliese 581g, we've dubbed the first colony on this newly-discovered planet Gloaming, a word that means "twilight." Because the planet is tidally locked to its star, only one side sees sunlight while the other is in constant darkness. The sunny side would be incredibly hot, while the dark side would be frozen - but astronomers estimate temperatures would be cold but livable at the border between. Colonies would be built in the gloaming, where light and dark meet.

The planet is also in orbit around a red dwarf star, whose light would be redder and much cooler than light from our yellow sun. Colonists living in Gloaming would be warmed by a sun that appeared much bigger in the sky than our own.

I just spoke by phone with Steve Vogt, the astrophysicst at UC Santa Cruz who led the team that discovered this planet. Though he was fine with us calling the planet Gloaming, he said he preferred the name Zarmina (he added that the planet was "too pretty" to be called Gliese 581g). So I've decided that our future planetary colony should be called Gloaming, but in deference to his wishes the planet is going to be Zarmina from here on out.


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