Newly discovered Earth-like planet could support life

11_15_ross128b_exoplanet

An worldwide team of astronomers has discovered a temperate Earth-sized world with the potential to harbor alien life.

Ross 128 and Ross 128b lie just 11 light-years from Earth, making the exoplanet the second closest temperate planet after Proxima b.

Because Ross 128 b doesn't transit, the astronomers used the European Space Observatory's High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS). There are many exoplanets orbiting dwarf stars with the potential to support life, but most of those stars are very active and throw off enough radiation to destroy anything living. 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. The star Ross 128 is part of the constellation of Virgo.

Red dwarf stars are some of the coolest, faintest and more common stars in the universe which makes them prime candidates for finding planets which could potentially support life.

The presence of liquid water on ancient Earth is considered to be one of the cornerstones of the evolution of life on our planet, and so if Ross 128 b were unable to host liquid water on its surface, it would be damning to the exoplanet's chances of hosting life. 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. But Ross 128 is rather quiet, suggesting conditions on Ross 128b are potentially peaceful enough for life to emerge.

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For that reason, the scientists refer to Ross 128 b as "the best temperate planet known to date". Around this period, Ross 128 b will then take over from Proxima b and become the closest exoplanet to Earth!

Bonfils said Ross 128 appears to be at least 5 billion years old - older than our solar system - and perhaps as old as 10 billion years.

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.

First, the star it orbits is relatively quiet.

We won't know for sure what kind of atmosphere this planet has until we look at it directly, and that may not happen for a while.

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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. As a result, its planets are thought to be the closest comfortable locations for any possible alien life.

The Earth-sized world may have a surface temperature close to that of the Earth.

Despite Ross 128 and Ross 128 b's distance away from Earth, it is moving towards us and is expected to surpass Proxima b and become our closest stellar neighbor in 79,000 years.

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

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