Scientists spotted Earth-like planet, potentially capable of harboring life

Scientists spotted Earth-like planet, potentially capable of harboring life

"Some [computer] models say the planet is close enough that it could have lost its atmosphere".

Astronomers found Ross 128 b using the ESO's High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher - also known as HARPS - a piece of equipment attached to a telescope that is able to separate different frequencies of light for analysis.

First, the star it orbits is relatively quiet. It also orbits an older star that has probably settled down somewhat. The temperatures on the planet Ross 128 b could therefore be comparable to those on Earth, estimated at at -60 to 20 degrees Celsius (-76 to 68°F). Our planetary search techniques rely on measuring variations in gravity or a star's apparent magnitude as a planet transits across it, and smaller planets are much harder to find with these methods.

Another tantalizing planet has been found outside our Solar System: an Earth-sized world that's our cosmic next-door neighbor - and it could be in just the right spot to host life.

That's why they're sticking to calling the planet "temperate" for now, until they can determine whether it's actually within a habitable zone or just on the cusp.

The magnitude of the wobbles indicates that the planet is at least 1.35 times the mass of Earth but could easily be twice the mass of Earth. "Ross 128 is one of the quietest stars of our sample, and although it is a little further away from us, it makes for an excellent alternative target".

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"Twenty years ago, no one would have believed that red dwarf stars - the runts of the cosmos - were good candidates for biology", Dr. Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, told NBC News MACH in an email. The star may have been more turbulent in its youth.

Though both Ross 128 and Proxima Centauri are red dwarfs - the most common type of star in the Milky Way galaxy - they are very different objects.

Red dwarfs are also a frequent target for SETI searches, mostly due to their prevalence.

This image shows the sky around the red dwarf star Ross 128 in the constellation of Virgo. Méndez's team wasn't looking for extraterrestrial signals; they were hoping to learn how red dwarf flares interacted with exoplanets. 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, by the way, radio astronomers detected a odd signal that seemed to be emanating from Ross 128. The signals didn't appear to be local interference, since observations made of other stars by Arecibo around the same time didn't see the signal. The instrument has helped discover dozens of exoplanets. His team plans to continue observing the system. If we have, it'll not only offer the potential to see what another planet like our own looks like - but potentially to meet the aliens that live there, or to move there ourselves. Depending on how you run the numbers, Ross 128b could be outside, inside, or at the inner edge of its habitable zone.

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