Ross 128 b is an exoplanet now located 11 light-years from our solar system, but it is moving closer and is predicted to become Earth's closest stellar neighbor in 79,000 years, scientists said.
Ross 128b orbits its host star once every 9.9 days and is 20 times closer to its host star than Earth is to the sun. It's 20 times closer to its star than Earth is to the sun, but its star is smaller and dimmer than the sun, so the planet is likely within the right temperature range for liquid water to exist.
Digitized Sky Survey 2 Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin This image shows the sky around the red dwarf star Ross 128 in the constellation of Virgo (The Virgin). Ross 128 is a very "quiet" star, the calmest red dwarf known to have a planet orbiting it, meaning its solar system could be conducive to supporting life.
At a distance of 11 light-years, Ross 128 b is the second-closest planet to be detected yet outside our solar system with surface temperatures potentially similar to ours.
Both planets orbit red dwarf stars, but what makes this new one somewhat more intriguing to astronomers is that its host star, Ross 128, is a relatively inactive red dwarf.
Such conditions could potentially support liquid water, indispensable to life as we know it.
Ross 128 b has numerous hallmarks that make for a promising target in the search for extraterrestrial life as it shares many similarities to Earth, the only world on which life is known to exist.
Astronomers have discovered a world 11 light-years away that may have a surface temperature similar to Earth's.
"Meanwhile, it is probably preferable to refer to Ross 128 b as a temperate planet rather than as a habitable zone planet", the authors wrote.
While the exact age of the star isn't known, the team of researchers estimate that Ross 128 is about five billion years old. That plausibly puts it in the habitable zone, but scientists can't yet pin down its vital signs with certainty. With the latest technology, it takes about 141,000 years to reach this planet.
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The exoplanet orbits a red dwarf star called Ross 128, the same star that scientists thought they had caught sending out weird radio signals earlier this year. As a result, this "reflex motion" velocity is much easier to spot.
In May, Abel Méndez, an associate professor of physics and astrobiology at the University of Puerto Rico, led a campaign at Arecibo Observatory to examine radio emissions coming from several nearby red dwarf stars. Other red dwarfs "are subject to flares that occasionally bathe their orbiting planets in deadly ultraviolet and X-ray radiation", according to a press release from the European Southern Observatory. "It is common that stars harbor more than a single planet", Astudillo-Defru told Futurism.
But a new giant telescope is being built in Chile - aptly named the Extremely Large Telescope, or ELT - which could use to peer into this planet's atmosphere. If we have, it'll not only offer the potential to see what another planet like our own looks like - but potentially to meet the aliens that live there, or to move there ourselves.
Proxima b, the closest temperate exoplanet to us, orbits just such an active star.
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