New reports indicate that a newly discovered planet, not so far from Earth, could harbor life.
The High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher at La Silla Observatory scans the skies nightly in Chile’s Atacama Desert, searching for planets outside our solar system.
We’ve discovered over 800 exoplanets so far, which can be exciting in its own right. But one question is sure to fascinate us all: are we alone?
It’s a tough question to answer, but studying which exoplanets could support life at all makes for a good start. A recent discovery shows that one of our celestial neighbors might be the right place to look.
HARP recently discovered a planet, dubbed Ross 128 b, orbiting the dwarf red star Ross 128. It’s not the closest known exoplanet to Earth, but it’s the likeliest nearby candidate for life.
Astronomers have determined that Ross 128b orbits a “quieter” dwarf star, meaning it doesn’t emit as much deadly radiation as other red dwarfs. Furthermore, it’s about the same size as Earth, and astronomers believe the planet’s temperature is similar as well.
Fox News reports:
“Stellar activity is probably the highest concern regarding the emergence of life, and even the survival of an atmosphere, on planets orbiting M dwarfs,” the paper reads. “Restricting the target list to quiet stars would disqualify Proxima Cen b and leave Ross 128 b as the best temperate planet known to date.”
Ross 128 b’s red dwarf star, Ross 128, is particularly quiet, experts say. Other red dwarfs “are subject to flares that occasionally bathe their orbiting planets in deadly ultraviolet and X-ray radiation,” according to a press release from the European Southern Observatory.
“However, it seems that Ross 128 is a much quieter star, and so its planets may be the closest known comfortable abode for possible life,” it added.
Eleven light-years away from Earth, Ross 128 b is the second closest exoplanet to our solar system, next to only Proxima b. According to the press release, Ross 128 b is “also the closest planet to be discovered orbiting an inactive red dwarf star, which may increase the likelihood that this planet could potentially sustain life” […]
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. It also orbits its host star (a red dwarf) every 9.9 days.
Eleven light-years away, Ross 128 b is second only to Proxima b in proximity to Earth. But Proxima b, which is just four light years from our sun, probably can’t support life.
Scientists will need to keep working to determine if other factors could build the case for life on Ross 128 b.
Fox News continues:
Despite Ross 128 and Ross 128 b’s distance from Earth, it is moving toward us and is expected to surpass Proxima b and become our closest stellar neighbor in 79,000 years.
More exoplanets are being discovered by astronomers thanks in part to tools like HARPS and ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope.
“New facilities at ESO will first play a critical role in building the census of Earth-mass planets amenable to characterisation,” said Xavier Bonfils, one of the co-authors of the study.
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.
Relative to our Milky Way galaxy at large, 11 light-years is just a stone’s throw away.
Could there be life on this Earth-sized planet? Does life exist anywhere, for that matter, but here at home?
Let us know what you think, and leave a comment in the section below.