Scientific American paints an eldritch picture of what lies at the edges of a distant star… a world of dim, twilit grotesqueries arranged in a tenebrous spectrum of shadowy things:
Amid a recent surge of detected planets, realistic models could provide critical guidance for future missions seeking out signs of life in the universe. Recently Gliese 581g has become a focal point for this research. Its nearly circular orbit around a red dwarf star would position it at the optimal distance for temperatures permitting liquid water on the surface—an essential feature for life. The red dwarf, though, emits only 1 percent of the light from our sun. Photosynthetic organisms on the planet would likely absorb as much of the weaker starlight as possible, making them appear black, according to modeling by Nancy Kiang of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and collaborators at the University of Washington–based Virtual Planetary Laboratory.
Preliminary calculations also support the idea that one side of Gliese 581g always faces its star and roasts in temperatures up to 64 degrees Celsius, whereas the planet’s dark side sees relentless North Pole–like winters. This positioning, still a matter of debate, might leave a more livable zone awash in a “perpetual sunset,” as Vogt calls it.