Potentially liveable planet found just 11 light years away | News | DW | 15.11.2017
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Science

Potentially liveable planet found just 11 light years away

Scientists have said that Ross 128b has a similar mass and surface temperature to that of Earth. Of the thousands of planets discovered outside the solar system, only 50 exhibit Earth-like conditions.

A group of European and South American astronomers announced on Wednesday that they had discovered a potentially habitable world at the "close" distance of just eleven light years outside our solar system.

According to the European Southern Observatory, planet Ross 128b has a mass similar to Earth and "its surface temperature could equally be close to that of Earth." This means that the planet could theoretically support liquid water, which is indispensable to terrestrial life.

The average temperature is theorized to be between -60 and 20 degrees Celsius (-76 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit).

Now, researchers have to find out if the planet has water, dioxygen or methane in its atmosphere.

"Ross 128b is very close, which will allow us to see it with a telescope such as E-ELT (European Extremely Large Telescope) in construction for 2025," Project leader Xavier Bonfils told French news agency AFP.

Ross 128b orbits a star within the constellation of Virgo, and of the thousands of exoplanets scientists have discovered, is one of only about 50 that could possibly support life.

Because the planet is 20 times closer to its sun than Earth is, a year only lasts 9.9 days, the Guardian newspaper reported. Unlike our sun, however, Ross 128b orbits a fainter red dwarf star, allowing close proximity without burning the planet to a crisp.

Ross 128b also has a clear advantage over the closest "Earth-like" world to our solar system, Proxima Centuari b. Although it is only 4.24 light years away, it orbits a much more active star that regularly emits gigantic stellar flares.

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