Scientists discover Earth-sized planet that 'could potentially sustain life'

Nearby exoplanet is a target for life

Maybe. This is the plucky star's second time in the spotlight this year.

Scientists find a planet of the same size as Earth, which also has the same surface temperature and is deemed possible to be made a place to live, according to a new study.

However, Proxima Centauri isn't a very "life-friendly" star.

If the newly discovered planet were the same distance from the red dwarf as Earth is from the sun, it would be frigid. The blasts of ultraviolet and X-ray radiation can rip away a nearby exoplanet's atmosphere and limit the possibility for alien life.

The exoplanet orbits a red dwarf star called Ross 128, the same star that scientists thought they had caught sending out weird radio signals earlier this year. That makes this planetary system much more conducive to hosting any potential life.

This image shows the sky around the red dwarf star Ross 128 in the constellation of Virgo. HARPS, which is attached to a 3.6-meter telescope at Chile's La Silla Observatory, works by splitting starlight into its component wavelengths. "Even better, the planet may orbit in the inner edge of its red star's habitable zone, where there could be water".




There's been an explosion in the discovery of potentially habitable worlds in the last few years orbiting these red dwarf stars - in fact, a recent study suggests there may be as many as 60 billion planets in the habitable zone of these red dwarf solar systems out there. The planet, named Ross 128 b, has a predicted temperature range that could allow liquid water to exist on the surface.

Astronomers have spotted a roughly Earth-mass world circling the small, dim star Ross 128, which lies just 11 light-years from the sun.

An artist's rendering of the E-ELT, based on the telescope's construction design. I know just where we can start. Sure, it seems to have a lot of good stats, but scientists still don't know what the planet's climate is like, and that could seriously impact its habitability. If so, that could prevent the planet from overheating. Those clouds would reflect back to space a large fraction of the incident light, hence preventing too much greenhouse heating.

Earlier this year, by the way, radio astronomers detected a odd signal that seemed to be emanating from Ross 128. So unfortunately, it would be a stretch to label Ross 128 b as "potentially habitable".

"We are considering additional follow-up in light of the new discovery at radio and optical wavelengths", said Andrew Siemion, the director of the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, in an email. Nevertheless, the announcement is just one more reason to get excited about new observatories like the Giant Magellan Telescope and Europe's Extremely Large Telescope. "Restricting the target list to quiet stars would disqualify Proxima Cen b and leave Ross 128 b as the best temperate planet known to date". This bathes those surfaces in radiation that makes it hard for life as we know it to emerge or survive.

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