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Newly discovered Earth-sized planet found orbiting quiet, nearby star

Newly discovered Earth-sized planet found orbiting quiet, nearby star”

In reporting their findings in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the scientists added yet another option to the blossoming list of "planets outside the solar system that could be potentially habitable to life", with this latest world being touted as one of the best chances-possibly the best chance-for finding extraterrestrial life yet.

Meet Ross 128 b, a newly discovered planet found orbiting around a small, faint star known as a red dwarf. The new world is now the second-closest temperate planet to be detected after Proxima b.

The discovery was made using the ESO's High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at the Las Silla Observatory in Chile. Close inspection reveals that Ross 128 has a odd multiple appearance as this image was created from photographs taken over a more than forty year period by the Digitized Sky Survey 2, and the star, which is only 11 light-years from Earth, moved across the sky significantly during this time.

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

While Ross 128b is considered to be a "temperate" planet, astronomers are still not certain where it lies in relation to its star's habitable zone.

They must find oxygen to figure out if it could be a good host planet for human colonisation or whether life already exists there. The HARPS instrument, which is mounted aboard a 3.6-meter optical and near-infrared telescope, does not directly observe exoplanets, but instead watches for a minute wobble in the motion of a host star created by the gravitational influence of an orbiting world. Considering the oldest human remains are thought to be hundreds of thousands or even millions of years old, it's not insane to think our species could still be roaming the Earth when Ross 128 b becomes the closest exoplanet to our home world.

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Ross 128 however appears to be far quieter than most red dwarfs suggesting that it could have remained inactive for long enough for the planet to become habitable. Proxima Centauri is only 4.2 light-years away. If the planet is too close to the star, its water would evaporate; too far away and the water would freeze into ice. The researchers said the temperatures on the planet likely range from minus-76 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-60 to 20 degrees Celsius).

Astronomers have discovered an Earth-like planet in the same solar system where "alien signals" were detected earlier this year.

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In an email, Méndez said the discovery of an exoplanet around Ross 128 was a "fortunate result for our research", because his team is specifically interested in studying red dwarfs known to harbor exoplanets. In fact, most red dwarfs are prone to flaring, which is bad news in the search for alien life outside our Solar System. 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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