Second-Closest Earth-Like Planet Discovered

NATION-NOW     Hello neighbor! Nearby planet could support life     
       Hello neighbor! Nearby planet could support life

NATION-NOW Hello neighbor! Nearby planet could support life Hello neighbor! Nearby planet could support life

Although it is now 11 light-years from Earth, Ross 128 is moving towards us and is expected to become our nearest stellar neighbour in just 79 000 years-a blink of the eye in cosmic terms.

The world was found by a team of European and South American astronomers led by Xavier Bonfils (Institut de Planétologie et d'Astrophysique de Grenoble, France) who were using the European Southern Observatory's world-leading planet-hunting instrument, HARPS.

The star is classified as a red dwarf, which are some of the coolest, faintest - and most common - stars in the universe. This may help Ross 128 b's chances of being the closest known "comfortable abode for possible life".

"HARPS is a spectrograph specially created to measure the radial velocity of the stars", Nicola Astudillo-Defru, an astronomer with the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland and a member of the team that made the discovery, told Popular Mechanics in an e-mail.

Ross 128 b is not the closest Earth-like world to us. The next generation of large ground-based telescopes, including the European Extremely Large Telescope, should be able to resolve features such as oxygen in the atmosphere of these nearby exoplanets. That distinction goes to Proxima Centauri b, which was discovered in 2016, and is just 4.24 light years away.

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. By contrast, Ross 128 is a quiescent red dwarf that is not subject to such fierce outbursts.

The exoplanet has been named after its host star - Ross 128 - which it orbits every 9.9 days.


"This discovery is based on more than a decade of HARPS intensive monitoring together with state-of-the-art data reduction and analysis techniques".

A newfound exoplanet may be one of the best bets to host alien life ever discovered - and it's right in Earth's backyard, cosmically speaking.

The findings of this research are slated to appear in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. While the scientists involved in this 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.

You may want to get used to the name Ross 128 b.

The only closer temperate planet is Proxima b, whose star, another red dwarf, bombards it with ultraviolet and X-ray radiation, possibly rendering it uninhabitable. However, Ross 128 is a particularly calm and cool dwarf star, only about 20 percent the diameter of the sun with a little more than half the sun's surface temperature.

However, astronomers will have to find something truly unexpected to top Ross 128 b and Proxima Centauri b.

Scientists say that Ross 128 is slowly moving closer toward our Solar System and is expected to become our "nearest stellar neighbour in just 79,000 years - a blink of the eye in cosmic terms".

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