Possible Discovery of an “Earth-Like” Planet orbiting GJ 581: Implications for Project Icarus

In recent days there has, justifiably, been much excitement over the reported discovery of an “Earth-like” planet orbiting within the “habitable zone” of the relatively nearby (20.5 light-years distant) red dwarf star GJ 581. The announcement was made in a paper by Steven Vogt (University of California), and colleagues, which has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. A preprint of this paper may be found at: http://arxiv.org/abs/1009.5733 As the Icarus study is tasked with designing an interstellar space vehicle capable of making in situ scientific investigations of nearby stars, it is natural to ask what implications this discovery may have for Icarus, and whether it affects the considerations of target star selection that were discussed in a previous article: http://old.icarusinterstellar.org/blog/targets-icarus-planets-15-lightyears-sun/ (more…)