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

Astronomers Spot First Earth-Sized Planets

Astronomers have detected the first Earth-sized planets, which are orbiting a star similar to our own Sun. In the distant past they may have been able to support life and one of them may have had conditions similar to our own planet – a so-called Earth-twin – according to the research team. They have described their findings as the most important planets ever discovered outside our Solar System.

Details of the discovery are outlined in Nature journal. Dr Francois Fressin, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in Cambridge, US, who led the research, said that the discovery was the beginning of a “new era” of discovery of many more planets similar to our own.

One of the planets, named Kepler 20f, is almost exactly the size of the Earth. Kepler 20e is slightly smaller at 0.87 times the radius of Earth and is closer to its star than 20f. They are both much closer to their star than the Earth is to the Sun and so they complete an orbit much more quickly: 20e circles its star in just six days, 20f completes an orbit in 20 days whereas the Earth takes a year. The researchers say that these planets are rocky and similar in composition to our own planet.

The discovery is important because it is the first confirmation that planets the size of Earth and smaller exist outside our Solar System. It also shows that the Kepler Space Telescope is capable of detecting relatively small planets around stars that are thousands of light-years away. The telescope has discovered 35 planets so far. Apart from 20e and f, they have all been larger than the Earth.

 

Source: BBC News

Image: ABC News