Astronomers Discover 3 Planets That May Support Life

Astronomers Discover 3 Planets That May Support LifeAstronomers announced that they’ve identified a star system with up to seven planets — three of which could potentially host life — 22 light-years away.

‘Habitable zone’

The likelihood that conditions could support life on at least one of those planets, given that there are three terrestrial-mass planets in the habitable zone of one system, is “tremendous,” according to at least one scientist. The “habitable zone” is the area near a star in which a planet can theoretically hold liquid water. In our own solar system, Venus is close to the inner edge of potential habitability, while Mars is closer to the outer edge.

The discovery is the largest number of “habitable zone” planets ever found within a single system, said Guillem Anglada-Escude of the University of Gottingen, Germany, who led the team of astronomers. The findings were published Wednesday in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. The findings are only the latest in a recent string of identifications of planets that may host life.


‘More exciting discoveries’

The three planets orbit a star called Gliese 667C, part of the triple-star system Gliese 667. They are between four and eight times the mass of the Earth, making them “super-Earths.” The planets are likely either rocky or water worlds, meaning they’re entirely covered in water. These particular planets also appear to be “tidally locked,” meaning the same side of a planet is always facing a star. That means one side of the planet always gets light and the other hemisphere is always in darkness.

Because they are so far away, the composition of the atmospheres of all of these planets outside our solar system remains unknown. Whether life truly roams or swims out there is still to be seen. Still, Anglada-Escude says the existence of star systems packed with potentially habitable planets, and the diversity of planets that Kepler has found, suggest there are more exciting discoveries yet to come.

Do you think the astronomers are very close to finding another planet that is truly habitable for us? Feel free to share your speculations with us!

Source: Elizabeth Landau | CNN

Image: Sci Tech Daily

NASA Telescope Confirms First Habitable Planet

NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft has confirmed the discovery of its first alien world in its host star’s habitable zone — that just-right range of distances that could allow liquid water to exist — and found more than 1,000 new exoplanet candidates, researchers announced on December 5.

The new finds bring the Kepler space telescope’s total haul to 2,326 potential planets in its first 16 months of operation. These discoveries, if confirmed, would quadruple the current tally of worlds known to exist beyond our solar system, which recently topped 700.

The newfound planet in the habitable zone is called Kepler-22b. It is located about 600 light-years away, orbiting a sun-like star. Its radius is 2.4 times that of Earth, and the two planets have roughly similar temperatures. If the greenhouse effect operates there similarly to how it does on Earth, the average surface temperature on Kepler-22b would be 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius).

Of the total 2,326 candidate planets that Kepler has found to date, 207 are approximately Earth-size. More of them, 680, are a bit larger than our planet, falling into the “super-Earth” category. The total number of candidate planets in the habitable zones of their stars is now 48.

Given more time, however, a wealth of more distantly orbiting — and perhaps more Earth-like — exoplanets should open up to Kepler. If intelligent aliens were studying our solar system with their own version of Kepler, after all, it would take them three years to detect our home planet.

 

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