Nearby planet 'could host alien life' - and it's moving towards Earth

16 Ноября, 2017, 01:40 | Author: Devin Moran
  • Nearby exoplanet is a target for life

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

The ESO reports that its High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument was what discovered Ross 128 b. Those wobbles shift stars' spectrums, and by tracking these shifts, HARPS can infer planets are present. The star Ross 128 is part of the constellation of Virgo.

They're not ideal though as they can intermittently give off vast solar flares that will bathe everything in its path in deadly radiation. It's 20 times closer to its star than Earth is to the sun, but its star is smaller and dimmer than the sun, so the planet is likely within the right temperature range for liquid water to exist. Not only that, but this planet travels at an incredible speed, taking just 9.9 days to complete a full orbit. Unlike most exoplanet discoveries, Ross 128 b was not detected during a transit when the planet moves in front of the host star from our perspective, allowing astronomers to detect the reduction in light from the star. Unlike other close rocky planets, such as those orbiting Trappist-1 and Proxima Centauri, Ross 128 b is set apart because its host star doesn't regularly blast it with potentially sterilizing flares of radiation.

Remarkably this list will change.

Alongside the ESA, NASA's Kepler space telescope has also been hunting for exoplanets and since 2009 has found some 30 planets that fall within their host star's habitable zone.

Through data from HARPS, the team found that Ross 128b orbits 20 times closer than the Earth orbits the Sun.

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Astronomers still don't know what the atmosphere of Ross 128 b is like, and therefore don't know if its surface temperature is comfortable enough to support life.

As for Ross 128 b, Bonfils told Futurism one forthcoming telescope in particular should prove useful for further study. 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.

In May, Abel Méndez, an associate professor of physics and astrobiology at the University of Puerto Rico, led a campaign at Arecibo Observatory to examine radio emissions coming from several nearby red dwarf stars.

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. In fact, most red dwarfs are prone to flaring, which is bad news in the search for alien life outside our Solar System. Both will be able to examine worlds like Ross 128 b in new detail, offering new insights into Earth-size exoplanets like never before.

And the star may indeed be targeted in the not-too-distant-future - by giant ground-based instruments such as the European Extremely Large Telescope, the Giant Magellan Telescope, and the Thirty Meter Telescope, all of which are scheduled to be up and running by the mid-2020s.

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