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Home away from home.

Call her the galaxy's real-estate agent. Maggie Turnbull, a graduate student in astrophysics at the University of Arizona, is scanning the universe for places that could sustain fife. She's compiled a fist of more than 17,000 stars that might have Earth-like planets orbiting them. "There's always the possibility of something evolving in conditions we wouldn't expect," explains Turnbull.

What "star qualities" does she look for? Using oar solar system as a model, she evaluated each candidate's age (it takes a long time for life to arise on a planet), brightness (bright stars emit deadly ultraviolet radiation), and composition (stars need to contain a certain amount of metal for planets similar to Earth to form nearby).

Next, Turnbull will trim the list to 30 addresses. Those stars will become the focus of the Terrestrial Planet Finder--a future NASA mission that will look around the stars for Earth-like planets. But don't pack your bags for a stellar trip yet. One top candidate, 37 Gem--the 37th brightest star in the constellation Gemini--is 50 light-years (distance light travels in one year, or 6,000,000,000,000 miles) away!

E.T.: If life exists on other planets it might not look like we'd expect, says Maggie Turnbull.
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Title Annotation:Physical/Space; search for stars that might support places sustaining life
Author:Kostel, Ken
Publication:Science World
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 12, 2004
Words:204
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