We Just Discovered Another New Planet That Could Host Life

ESO  M Kornmesser

NASA says that in order to see if there is water on either of the planet's surface needed to support life, that it requires "better telescopes to see". Scientists say Ross 128 b's surface temperature could be a lot like Earth's.

According to the press release, Ross 128 b is "also the closest planet to be discovered orbiting an inactive red dwarf star, which may increase the likelihood that this planet could potentially sustain life".

Additionally, red dwarf "flare" stars like Ross 128 and Proxima Centauri periodically erupt showers of ultraviolet and X-ray radiation, which would be harmful to Earth-like lifeforms.

Ross 128b orbits its host star once every 9.9 days and is 20 times closer to its host star than Earth is to the sun.

Ross 128b was found with the help of ESO's High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument, that is attached to ESO's 3.6 metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, and although the circumstances look favourable, scientists involved in the project are uncertain as to whether the planet lies inside, outside, or on the edge of the habitable zone where liquid water may exist on a planet's surface.

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

They must find oxygen to figure out if it could be a good host planet for human colonisation or whether life already exists there. Those wobbles shift stars' spectrums, and by tracking these shifts, HARPS can infer planets are present.

"We still need to know what the atmosphere of Ross 128 b is like", co-discoverer Nicola Astudillo-Defru told BBC News.

Why are people so excited about Ross 128 b?

As was previously noted, Ross 128 is now 11 light-years from Earth, but it's moving toward us and, as a result, it will one day be our nearest stellar neighbor...not for 79,000 years, but in cosmic terms, that is just the blink of an eye.

Although it is now 11 light years from Earth, the planet is moving towards us and is expected to be our nearest star neighbor in just 79,000 years, a blink of an eye in cosmic terms. Based on the data, the team estimated that the imaginatively-named exoplanet Ross 128 b orbits its star at the equivalent of one twentieth the distance between the Earth and Sun. The star may have been more turbulent in its youth.

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Ross 128 b has numerous hallmarks that make for a promising target in the search for extraterrestrial life as it shares many similarities to Earth, the only world on which life is known to exist. That's a red dwarf - a type of sun that offers hope to scientists looking for exoplanets, but comes with some caveats. The world, which is about one-and-a-half times the mass of Earth, may be in the star's habitable zone, too.

Earlier this year, scientists said that they had received unusual pulses coming from the star.

More exoplanets are being discovered by astronomers due in part to tools like HARP and ESO's Extremely Large Telescope.

The obvious things are that the planet is roughly the same size as ours, and might have a similar climate.

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