Sci-tech

Newly discovered Earth-sized planet found orbiting quiet, nearby star

Newly discovered Earth-sized planet found orbiting quiet, nearby star

Astronomers have discovered an Earth-like planet in the same solar system where "alien signals" were detected earlier this year. The planet, Ross 128 b, orbits the star once every 9.9 days.

Because Ross 128 b doesn't transit, the astronomers used the European Space Observatory's High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS).

"We have many instruments coming online to boost the search for planets around similar stars, notably SPIRou at the Canada-France-Hawai-Telescope and NIRPS to complement HARPS at the 3.6m telescope in La Silla", Bonfils told Futurism.

Ross 128 b location This chart shows the location of Ross 128 b near the constellation Virgo, circled in red at center-right.

Ross 128 b is very near its star, thus the short orbit. But what's remarkable about Ross 128 is that it is especially calm and comfortable - it doesn't seem to be given to such outbursts, meaning that the chance of supporting life on the planet is vastly increased. Other stars, such as the nearby Proxima Centauri, which also has an Earth-like planet orbiting it, have a tendency to spit out intense flares that contain deadly ultraviolet radiation and X-rays and that could erode planets' atmospheres. However, in "only" 79, 000 years, this will all change as Ross 128 is moving towards us. Additionally, close-orbiting stars like Ross 128 b tug on their stars more noticeably, making them easier to find with instruments like HARPS.

Astronomers have also discovered that Ross 128 b is roughly the same size as Earth and may have a similar temperature on its surface, though more observation is needed. After Proxima b, Ross 128 b is the second closest temperate planet to be found.

"Meanwhile, it is probably preferable to refer to Ross 128 b as a temperate planet rather than as a habitable zone planet", the authors wrote.

Just being in the habitable zone, however, doesn't guarantee Ross 128 b is actually habitable.

Third, the planet may sit within the habitable zone of its host star.

Cool, low-mass red dwarfs are the most common type of stars-at least in our Sun's neighborhood. Without this protective shield, an exoplanet would be at the mercy of the radiation pouring from its star. With the latest technology, it takes about 141,000 years to reach this planet. After taking 116 measurements with HARPS, the team was able to conclude that an Earth-sized planet was orbiting around the star. Abel Méndez, the director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at Arecibo, nicknamed them "the Weird!"

Ross 128 is an old, inactive red dwarf star that sits 11 light-years away. But at 10.89 light years away, this may be the best candidate we've yet found for viable life - and it's parked in our own backyard.

In an email, Méndez said the discovery of an exoplanet around Ross 128 was a "fortunate result for our research", because his team is specifically interested in studying red dwarfs known to harbor exoplanets.

But a new giant telescope is being built in Chile - aptly named the Extremely Large Telescope, or ELT - which could use to peer into this planet's atmosphere.

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