NOV 15, 2017 2:58 PM PST

Does This Nearby Exoplanet Support Life?

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Astronomers have been scouring the galaxy for potentially-habitable exoplanets for years, but it’s not every day that we find one with just the right mix of circumstances.

Given the rarity of such finds, it isn’t complicated to understand why astronomers are breaking out in their happy dance after finding Ross 128 b, a potentially-habitable Earth-like exoplanet residing about 11 light years away from the solar system.

An artist's impression of Ross 128 b and its host star, a red dwarf called Ross 128.

Image Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

The full findings, which were made possible by the European Southern Observatory's High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at La Silla Observatory in Chile, have been published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Astronomers estimate that Ross 128 b is about 1.35x more massive than Earth and around 20 times closer to its host star than the Earth is from the Sun. At such close proximity, Ross 128 b zips around its host star once every 9.9 days. It even maintains a comfortable surface temperature because the red dwarf star it orbits is naturally much cooler than stars like our Sun.

Related: Astronomers find 7 Earth-like exoplanets orbiting a nearby star

Although many red dwarf stars are volatile and exhibit extreme stellar radiation that makes most orbiting exoplanets inhabitable, astronomers say this isn’t the case with Ross 128. Its lack of intense stellar activity means that Ross 128 b sees only slightly more stellar radiation than Earth, which further supports the notion that it could be habitable.

Behind Proxima b, Ross 128 b is the second-closest temperate exoplanet to Earth and the closest-known Earth-like exoplanet orbiting a red dwarf star. Astronomers also indicate that Ross 128 is heading our way. Within as little as 79,000 years, the exoplanet it's towing around could become the closest temperate exoplanet to Earth, succeeding Proxima b for that title.

Several questions remain as of this writing, such as whether Ross 128 b resides in its host star's habitable zone and whether the exoplanet has a life-friendly atmosphere – it could be rich like the Earth's, but there's always the chance that it's sterile like Venus'.

We may not be able to answer these questions definitively for a few more years to come, but planned observations made with far more capable space observatories could shed some light. Fortunately, with the James Webb Space Telescope launching within the next couple of years, we may learn the answers to these questions sooner rather than later.

It should be interesting to learn whether Ross 128 b is everything it's hyped up to be...

Source: BBC

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
NOV 14, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Evidence of Supernovae Found in Ancient Tree Rings
NOV 14, 2020
Evidence of Supernovae Found in Ancient Tree Rings
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have found that the rings in Earth's ancient trees may hold evid ...
DEC 29, 2020
Space & Astronomy
How Do Spiders Behave in Zero Gravity?
DEC 29, 2020
How Do Spiders Behave in Zero Gravity?
The International Space Station (ISS) is a treasure trove of scientific intrigue. But it's not just life-saving drug ...
MAY 09, 2021
Space & Astronomy
NASA's Ingenuity Helicopter Completes Its First One-Way Trip on Mars
MAY 09, 2021
NASA's Ingenuity Helicopter Completes Its First One-Way Trip on Mars
NASA sent the Perseverance rover to Mars loaded with cutting edge technology, one piece of which is a robotic helicopter ...
MAY 15, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Earth's Core has 70 Times More Hydrogen than the Oceans
MAY 15, 2021
Earth's Core has 70 Times More Hydrogen than the Oceans
Researchers from the University of Tokyo have found that under certain extreme conditions, hydrogen particles can bond s ...
JUN 05, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Did Heat from Asteroids Provide the Building Blocks for Life on Earth?
JUN 05, 2021
Did Heat from Asteroids Provide the Building Blocks for Life on Earth?
Researchers from Kobe University in Japan have found that heat generated by the impact of small astronomical bodies coul ...
JUN 08, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Astrophysicists Discover Origins of First Structures in Milky Way
JUN 08, 2021
Astrophysicists Discover Origins of First Structures in Milky Way
A team of scientists led by the Centre for Astrobiology have discovered that the bulges we see in disc galaxies formed i ...
Loading Comments...