This newly discovered Earth-sized planet could harbor life

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

Ross 128 b is the second closest known exo-Earth (after Proxima Centauri b, which is just over four light-years distant), and it's the closest temperate planet known around a quiet star. 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.

They must find oxygen to figure out if it could be a good host planet for human colonisation or whether life already exists there. These stars output a fraction of the luminescence as our sun, have a much lower surface temperature, and often flare in ways that could sterilize any life on the surface of their planets. In our own solar system, it's the area roughly between the orbits of Venus and Mars.

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. The High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) looks for tiny wobbles in a star's motion caused by the gravitational tug-of-war between the star and its planets.

"This discovery is based on more than a decade of HARPS intensive monitoring together with state-of-the-art data reduction and analysis techniques", comments Nicola Astudillo-Defru of the University of Geneva, Switzerland, who co-authored the discovery paper.

Nearby exoplanet is a target for life
Earth-Like Planet Found By Star Where Scientists Discovered 'Alien Signals'

Proxima B Planet, Orbiting Proxima Centauri, a Red Dwarf Star.

The question "are we alone in the universe?" has bewildered mankind for eons as the search for alien life thus far has yielded no results. Considering the oldest human remains are thought to be hundreds of thousands or even millions of years old, it's not insane to think our species could still be roaming the Earth when Ross 128 b becomes the closest exoplanet to our home world.

Astronomers have discovered a nearby exoplanet that should instantly top the list of worlds beyond our solar system worth checking for signs of alien life.

More research is needed to determine if Ross 128 b has all of the conditions to sustain life, scientists said, and they plan to use ESO's Extremely Large Telescope to explore the planet's atmosphere. But Ross 128 b's star doesn't seem to flare much at all. That's a red dwarf - a type of sun that offers hope to scientists looking for exoplanets, but comes with some caveats. Ross 128 is relatively quiet, cool and has just over half the surface temperature of the sun, scientists said, which could make Ross 128 b conducive to life.

When Méndez's team looked at the results, they saw something peculiar: some odd, semi-repeating signals coming from Ross 128. The signals didn't appear to be local interference, since observations made of other stars by Arecibo around the same time didn't see the signal.

  • Joey Payne