Newly Discovered Nearby Super-Earths Could Potentially Host Life

Katie Ramirez
June 30, 2020

Most exoplanets are discovered by monitoring stars for a small dip in luminance caused by planets passing in front of them. Both of them are close to the habitable zone of the system, which is actually closer to the star compared to the zone where the Earth is because Gliese 887 is smaller and dimmer than the Sun.

Astronomers have discovered two super-Earth around the star Gilese 887, which is approximately 11 light years from our planet. The results were published in the journal Science. It is a red dwarf star with a mass that is half the sun's mass and is located 11 light-years from Earth as per reports.

The team of astronomers monitored the red dwarf using the HARPS spectrograph at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, and then combined that with data from the Anglo-Australian Planet Search (using the 3.9m Anglo-Australian Telescope near Coonabarabran), the Planet finder Spectrograph (on Cerro Las Campanas in Chile) and the HIRES instrument on the Keck telescopes on Maunakea, Hawaii. Researchers also found that GJ887 has very few starspots, meaning it isn't as active as our Sun.

Based on their findings, astronomers claim that the outer planets have short orbits of no more than 9.3 and 21.8 days.

The newly discovered super-Earths could be rocky worlds, and lie close to the habitable zone of this red dwarf star - the zone where water could exist in liquid form on a planetary surface.

Are there other exoplanets in space similar to Earth that can support life?

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The planets, named Lacaille 9352b (Gliese 887b) and Lacaille 9352c (Gliese 887c), have minimum masses of 4.2 and 7.6 Earth masses, respectively.

Express reports a group of worldwide astronomers detected the presence of a system made up of "super-Earth" exoplanets orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 887, which is located 11 light-years away from Earth.

So, the newly discovered planets could possibly have retained their atmospheres, or have thicker atmospheres than the Earth indicating that they could potentially host life. The other interesting feature the team discovered is that the brightness of Gliese 887 is nearly constant.

Another thing that the researchers found is that Gliese 887's brightness is quite constant, which would make future studies of the super-Earths' atmospheres much easier. Their proximity offers a promising opportunity to study exoplanet atmospheres using the soon to be launched James Webb Space Telescope. Gliese 887 might not have heat-blasted these exoplanets, making them even more interesting objects for study. But most of those planets orbit distant and faint stars.

At 10.7 light-years away, Lacaille 9352 is the 12th closest star system to the Sun.

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