A second Earth? Astronomers spot planet the same size and temperature as Earth

Already referred to by many as a possible second Earth, the planet Ross128B is the second-closest temperate alien world found after Proxima B. Its surface temperatures vary between -60 and 20°C, and the planet is moving towards us. 

Astronomers have made another mind-boggling discovery at just 11 light years away.

Already dubbed by some as a possible second Earth, the planet Ross 128b orbits a red dwarf and could be the best place (so far) where we could find alien life.

A new study suggests that Ross128b has a similar surface temperature as Earth, and could turn out to be “the closest known, comfortable abode for possible life.”

The planet was spotted by astronomers using ESO unique planet-hunting HARPS instrument (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher).

This artist’s impression shows the temperate planet Ross 128 b, with its red dwarf parent star in the background. Image Credit ESO

The discovery means it’s the second-closest temperate alien world found after Proxima B.

As noted by experts, Ross128B is also the closest planet orbiting an inactive red dwarf, an important characteristic that according to experts may increase the likelihood that this planet could potentially sustain life

“This discovery is based on more than a decade of HARPS intensive monitoring together with state-of-the-art data reduction and analysis techniques. Only HARPS has demonstrated such a precision, and it remains the best planet hunter of its kind, 15 years after it began operations,” explains Nicola Astudillo-Defru (Geneva Observatory – University of Geneva, Switzerland), who co-authored the discovery paper.

Furthermore, the alien world is traveling across the universe towards us, which means that it will become our cosmic neighbor in around 79,000 years—a relatively short period in cosmic terms.

Astronomers say that Ross128 is the ‘quietists’ alien sun, home to a temperate exoplanet.

Astronomers note that Red Dwarfs—just like Ross128—are some of the most common stars in the universe. This makes them of great importance in our search for Earth-like planets and worlds that may already host alien life.

Xavier Bonfils (Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble – Université Grenoble-Alpes/CNRS, Grenoble, France), refers to the HARPS program as “The shortcut to happiness, as it is easier to detect small cool siblings of Earth around these stars, than around stars more similar to the Sun.”

Astronomers say that Ross128B orbits its host star 20 times closer that our planet orbits the Sun. However, despite the fact that Ross128B is located close to its star, it only receives 1.38 times more irradiation than Earth.

This places Ross128B with an equilibrium temperature between -60 and 20°C.

Despite this fact, astronomers note that they are unsure whether the Ross128B is located inside, outside, or on the cusp of the habitable zone of its star, the place in the solar system where liquid water may exist on a planet’s surface.

“New facilities at ESO will first play a critical role in building the census of Earth-mass planets amenable to characterization. In particular, NIRPS, the infrared arm of HARPS, will boost our efficiency in observing red dwarfs, which emit most of their radiation in the infrared. And then, the ELT will provide the opportunity to observe and characterize a large fraction of these planets,” concludes Xavier Bonfils.

Source ESO

Featured image credit: Shutterstock

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