We Just Discovered Another New Planet That Could Host Life

Nearby exoplanet is a target for life

A new earth-like planet has been found, only 11 light years from our solar system.

The High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (Harps) looks for tiny wobbles in a star's motion caused by its gravitational interaction with planets orbiting it. Then came the seven Earth-sized worlds orbiting TRAPPIST-1, a star 39 light-years away, three of which are in the habitable zone. The image below shows the habitable zone calculations for an A-type star (a star much more luminous than Sol), a sun-like star, and an M-class star (red dwarf).

The team behind the work notes that, while most red dwarf stars experience extreme solar flares - flares that bathe their planets in deadly radiation - Ross 128 is a "quiet star".

In other words, the planet makes the star wobble as it rotates, astronomers were able to measure the wobble with HARPS, and that measurement revealed some key information about the planet, such as its mass and how far away it is from the host star. That makes the possibility of life there less likely than on Ross 128 b, according to researchers.

Astronomers have discovered an Earth-like planet in the same solar system where "alien signals" were detected earlier this year. Proxima b is about 4-light-years from Earth.

More observation on Ross 128 b is needed to know whether there is water present (one of the building blocks of life), but it is close enough to Ross 128 that it could have the prerequisite warmth for water to exist.

Nearby exoplanet is a target for life

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) says it is the second-closest temperate planet to Earth yet discovered - and it is also moving closer, meaning it will be closer than our existing "closest neighbour" in 79,000 years.

"Because Proxima Centauri blasts its planet with strong flares and high energy radiation, yes, I think Ross 128 is much more comfortable for the development of life", Dr. Nicola Astudillo-Defru, one of the researchers on the project, told BBC News. Ross 128 on the other hand is thought to be relatively inactive, and so may not pose as great a threat to Ross 128 b as Proxima Centauri does to Proxima b.

The closest one, known as Proxima b, may be less hospitable for life. That puts the planet about 20 times closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun.

When the ELT comes online, "It shall provide both the collecting power and the angular resolution to observe Ross 128 b directly". "But Ross 128 b is at least theoretically habitable - and what's more, it's extremely nearby". So unfortunately, it would be a stretch to label Ross 128 b as "potentially habitable".

Astronomers often talk about a "habitable zone" around a star - it's the range of distances where temperatures allow water to remain liquid on the surface of a planet. Scientists say a planet needs temperatures between -60°C and +20°C to be considered temperate.

When Méndez's team looked at the results, they saw something peculiar: some unusual, semi-repeating signals coming from Ross 128.

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