Jackpot: astronomers tag Goldilocks planet
GJ 667C is practically a next-door neighbor
While the Kepler mission turns up its ever-growing crop of exoplanets, a group of astronomers has announced an exciting find closer to home: looking towards Scorpius, there's a super-Earth-sized planet just 22 light-years distant, with a habitable-zone orbit.
Planets with the right orbit offer the best chance of harbouring water and therefore life: they're not so distant that the water freezes, and not so close that it boils away into space.
Using public data from the European Southern Observatory, the group found evidence of at least one, and as many as three, other planets orbiting the star, according to a statement issued by the University of California Santa Cruz.
The team was led by Guillem Anglada-Escudé (then with the Carnegie Institution for Science, now with German's University of Gottingen), and Carnegie's Paul Butler, working with UCSC astronomers Steven Vogt and Eugenio Rivera.
The research has also widened the scope of stars that might host habitable planets: the host star, GJ 667C, is an M-class dwarf star that's part of a triple-star system with two orange K dwarf stars. The discovery is a surprise because as a whole, the system is poor in elements heavier than helium: the researchers state that the concentration of atoms like iron, carbon and silicon is "only 25 percent that of our sun's".
This also gives rise to excitement among the researchers: it's generally assumed that metal-depleted star systems are less likely to play host to low-mass planets, so finding a notionally habitable planet around GJ 667C might suggest such planets are plentiful.
Earth 2, here we Come!;) I recently just discovered the 90's TV Show, Earth 2 and am getting a big kick out of watching it now:) I think that it is more relevant now, than it was, when it was originally made...
- Space News 02-03-12
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