Newly Discovered Nearby Super-Earths Could Potentially Host Life

Astronomers Discover Super Earths Orbiting Red Dwarf Star 11 Light Years Away

USQ team help discover 'Super-Earths' orbiting nearby star

Based on the signals, both super-Earths are moving much faster than Mercury, which completes an orbit around the Sun in 88 Earth days.

"We also discovered two interesting facts about Lacaille 9352, which turn out to be good news not only for the newly-discovered planets but also for astronomers", they said.

An global team of astronomers has detected super-Earths orbiting a nearby star just 11 lightyears away.

Scientists are now ready to study the red dwarf star called GJ 887, which is also known as Gliese 887.

For their study, the RedDots team of astronomers monitored the red dwarf using the HARPS spectrograph at the European Southern Observatory in Chile and used a technique known as "Doppler wobble". Gliese 887 is exceptionally inactive in terms of energetic outbursts and dark starspots, meaning it could be hospitable to life on the planets in its orbit.

They found that the star appeared to be orbited by planets that have orbits that would give them years of just 9.3 and 21.8 days on Earth. It is estimated that the temperature of 887c is around 70 C. If these planets were orbiting that close to our own Sun they would be burnt-out lifeless husks, but because red dwarf stars are much less intense than our Sun, the habitable zone surrounding these stars is much different. The newly discovered super-Earths could be rocky worlds, and lie close to the "habitable zone" of this red dwarf star - i.e. the zone where water could exist in liquid form on a planetary surface.

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Are there other exoplanets in space similar to Earth that can support life? If Gliese 887 was as active as our Sun, it is likely that a strong stellar wind - outflowing material which can erode a planet's atmosphere - would simply sweep away the planets' atmospheres. Scientists say that these new planets can have thicker atmospheres than Earth, and potentially contain life. Gliese 887, as it was named, is the 13 closest star to our solar system that has ever been discovered.

"The other interesting feature we discovered is that the brightness of Lacaille 9352 is nearly constant".

This makes it a prime target for the James Webb Space Telescope, a successor to the Hubble Telescope that is due to launch in the next year.

"These planets will provide the best possibilities for more detailed studies, including the search for life outside our Solar System", study lead author Dr. Sandra Jeffers said in a press release from the of the University of Göttingen.

Only 12 other such stars are closer to our solar system as per a Reuters report. However, the more distant location of the unconfirmed third planet may place it within GJ 887's so-called "habitable zone".

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