Hello, neighbor! Nearby planet could support life

Hello, neighbor! Nearby planet could support life

Paris - A new extrasolar system planet can be added to a handful of fellow exoplanets which could theoretically support life, the European Southern Observatory said on Wednesday.

That makes Ross 128 b the second closest potentially habitable exoplanet to Earth we know about after Proxima b, a rocky world that orbits around the nearest star to our Solar System, Proxima Centauri.

It was discovered by a team of researchers who are using the European Space Agency's High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. Those wobbles shift stars' spectrums, and by tracking these shifts, HARPS can infer planets are present.

While the scientists involved in the discovery consider Ross 128b to be a temperate planet, uncertainty remains as to whether the planet lies inside, outside, or on the cusp of the habitable zone, where liquid water may exist on a planet's surface. "Ross 128 is one of the quietest stars of the neighborhood". However, Ross 128 b is the "quietest" nearby star to host a temperate exoplanet. Even though the planet is 20 times closer to its star than Earth is to the sun (the orbit is just 9.9 days), chances are much better Ross 128 b is temperate, particularly when compared with Proxima b.

A newly discovered star, known as Ross 128 b, has been held up as our most likely neighbour that could support life. This bathes those surfaces in radiation that makes it hard for life as we know it to emerge or survive.

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When the ELT comes online, "It shall provide both the collecting power and the angular resolution to observe Ross 128 b directly". Dubbed Ross 128 b, the newfound world is about 11 light-years from our solar system, in the constellation Virgo.

A star's habitable zone is the region where liquid water can exist on a planet's surface. Ross 128 appears at the center of the picture. That plausibly puts it in the habitable zone, but scientists can't yet pin down its vital signs with certainty.

Due to their plentiful nature and the fact that other exoplanets have been found around these types of stars, red dwarfs are being studied and observed with increasing frequency in the hopes of finding more exoplanets. "Some models made by theorists say that a wet Earth-size planet with such irradiation would form high-altitude clouds". It's actually easier to detect exoplanets around red dwarfs because the stars are much fainter (none are visible with the naked eye from Earth) and thus don't wash out their surroundings as drastically. Abel Méndez, the director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at Arecibo, nicknamed them "the Weird!"

They're not flawless though as they can intermittently give off vast solar flares that will bathe everything in its path in deadly radiation.

Where should we look for alien life? "It is common that stars harbor more than a single planet", Astudillo-Defru told Futurism. They hope to find out during follow up analysis using ESO's Extremely Large Telescope. The closest is Proxima b, located around Proxima Centauri, 4.2 light-years from Earth.

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