NASA says another Earth-sized planet has been discovered 'in habitable zone'

Nearby exoplanet is a target for life

The discovery was made after over a decade of "intensive monitoring" using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument, a high-contrast imaging and high-dispersion spectrograph, installed on the the ESO 3.6m telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile.

Hold up - temperate planet?

Red dwarfs are among the coolest stars in the universe.

It is also the closest planet to be discovered orbiting an inactive red dwarf star, which scientists say increases the potential for sustaining life.

In other words, the planet makes the star wobble as it rotates, astronomers were able to measure the wobble with HARPS, and that measurement revealed some key information about the planet, such as its mass and how far away it is from the host star. The researchers said that new tools, such as the ESO's Extremely Large Telescope, which is set to begin observations in 2024, may be able to determine the atmospheric compositions of exoplanets, providing more evidence whether they could support life.

It is now moving towards us and is expected to become our nearest stellar neighbour in "just" 79,000 years when it will take the crown from Proxima b and become the closest exoplanet to Earth.

As was previously noted, Ross 128 is now 11 light-years from Earth, but it's moving toward us and, as a result, it will one day be our nearest stellar neighbor...not for 79,000 years, but in cosmic terms, that is just the blink of an eye. Ross 128 is the nearest "quietest" star to become a host such a temperate exoplanet.

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Astronomers announced Wednesday the discovery of an Earth-size planet around a small red star in our corner of the galaxy.

"Ten years from now, we will be capable, thanks to giant telescopes, to directly "see" the planet and characterize its atmosphere", Astudillo-Defru told Futurism via email. The research team estimates that Ross 128 b receives just 38 percent more radiation than Earth does and should have equilibrium temperatures between minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit and 69 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, Proxima Centauri isn't a very "life-friendly" star.

When the ELT comes online, "It shall provide both the collecting power and the angular resolution to observe Ross 128 b directly". "Restricting the target list to quiet stars would disqualify Proxima Cen b and leave Ross 128 b as the best temperate planet known to date". But it is close enough to Ross 128 that it absorbs warmth sufficient for liquid water, one of the requisite ingredients for life, to potentially exist on the surface. There aren't really any telescopes available right now that can see Ross 128 b directly.

There's still uncertainty about whether Ross 128 b is within the habitable zone, but scientists say that with temperatures of between -60 and +20°C, it can be considered temperate.

Just being in the habitable zone, however, doesn't guarantee Ross 128 b is actually habitable. Flaring stars can blast nearby planets with lots of radiation, stripping away their atmospheres and making them uninhabitable.

When Méndez's team looked at the results, they saw something peculiar: some odd, semi-repeating signals coming from Ross 128. But at 10.89 light years away, this may be the best candidate we've yet found for viable life - and it's parked in our own backyard.

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