An international group of astrophysicists have discovered two “Earth-like” planets potentially capable of supporting life.
Both planets -- named Teegarden b and Teegarden c -- orbit the Teegarden star, a sun roughly 12.5 light-years away from Earth and about 10 times smaller than the one in our solar system.
"The two planets resemble the inner planets of our solar system," Mathias Zechmeister, lead author of the study and a research scientist at the Institute for Astrophysics at the University of Gottingen, said in a news release. "They are only slightly heavier than Earth and are located in the so-called habitable zone, where water can be present in liquid form.”
The study, published Wednesday in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, indicates the planets appear to be billions of years old, giving life the chance to evolve and surround a stable star that doesn’t give off large solar flares.
“We’ve found a lot of very similar Earth-like planets over the last 10 years or so, but these two around Teegarden star are really amazingly close,” Paul Delaney, a physics and astronomy professor at York University, told CTV News Channel. “One of them, in particular, has almost the same mass and the surface temperature is projected to be 20 to 50 C on average. Really, very Earth like.”
The Teegarden star’s diminutive size has led researchers to determine it takes just 4.9 and 11.4 days for Teegarden b and c to circle it, respectively.
“The structure of the solar system is quite different, but the important point is the mass of the planet is very similar to Earth,” Delaney said.
The Teegarden discoveries are part of a larger project aimed at finding planets capable of supporting life. The team has now found 11 such planets.
“We haven’t found life anywhere else yet, but we’re looking very hard,” said Delaney. “When we’ve got a planet in the habitable zone with such a really good temperature and a size very comparable to Earth, we get very, very hopeful.”
Researchers have so far only found the two planets surrounding the Teegardensun, but speculate there could be a much larger solar system surrounding the star.