Researchers have revealed a newfound alien planet might be able to support life – and say it is just 16 light years away.
Called Gliese 832c, it is a ‘super-Earth’ at least five times as massive as our planet.
The researchers say it might be the closest in terms of conditions ever found – and may even have Earth-like temperatures, albeit with large seasonal shifts.
An international team of astronomers says the exoplanet is in the star Gliese 832’s ‘habitable zone,’ the just-right range of distances that could allow liquid water to exist on a world’s surface and extraterrestrial life as well..
Gliese 832c orbits its host star every 36 days.
However, the host star is a red dwarf that’s much dimmer and cooler than our sun, so Gliese 832c receives about as much stellar energy as Earth does, despite orbiting much closer to its parent, researchers said.
‘This makes Gliese 832 c one of the top three most Earth-like planets and the closest one to Earth of all three, a prime object for follow-up observations,’ said Abel Mendez Torres, director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo.
‘So far, the two planets of Gliese 832 are a scaled-down version of our own Solar System, with an inner potentially Earth-like planet and an outer Jupiter-like giant planet,’ the team wrote.
‘The giant planet may well played a similar dynamical role in the Gliese 832 system to that played by Jupiter in our Solar System. ‘
This star is already known to harbour a cold Jupiter-like planet, Gliese 832 b, discovered on 2009. The new planet, Gliese 832 c, was added to the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog along with a total of 23 objects of interest.
The number of planets which can support extra terrestrial life in the catalog has almost doubled this year alone.
A team led by Robert Wittenmyer, of the University of New South Wales in Australia, discovered Gliese 832c by noticing the tiny wobbles the planet’s gravity induces in the motion of its host star.
They spotted these wobbles in data gathered by three separate instruments — the University College London Echelle Spectrograph on the Anglo-Australian Telescope in Australia, the Carnegie Planet Finder Spectrograph on the Magellan II telescope in Chile and the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) spectrograph, which is part of the European Southern Observatory’s 11.8-foot (3.6 meters) telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.