New Earth-like planet has temperatures favourable to life
Published Wednesday, November 15, 2017 11:11AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 15, 2017 8:53PM EST
Astronomers have discovered the best new interstellar vacation spot of 3017 – and the weather there is gorgeous.
The European Space Agency has discovered a nearby planet with Earth-like temperatures orbiting a “quiet” star, where the conditions may be favourable enough to support life.
The planet, dubbed Ross 128 b, is 11 light-years away, making it the second-closest known exoplanet to Earth. It’s also considerably more hospitable than our nearest Earth-like neighbour, Proxima Centauri b.
The planet is orbiting a red dwarf star that’s judged to be much more stable than Proxima Centauri, which is known to throw out flares of deadly ultraviolet and X-ray radiation.
“It seems that Ross 128 is a much quieter star, and so its planets may be the closest known comfortable abode for possible life,” the ESO wrote in a news release.
Scientists still aren’t quite sure what the planet’s surface looks like, or whether there is liquid water present. That’s why they’re sticking to calling the planet “temperate” for now, until they can determine whether it’s actually within a habitable zone or just on the cusp.
The planet orbits the star once every 9.9 days, meaning its years are really, really short.
Their next step is to analyze the planet’s atmosphere for signs of oxygen and other biomarkers that might indicate the presence of or conditions for life.
Astronomers spotted Ross 128 b using their new planet-hunting telescope, the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS). Their findings are published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.