Newfound 'super-Earth' could support life
This artist’s impression
shows the newfound potentially habitable alien planet HD40307g in the
foreground. (Image from space.com by J. Pinfield, for the RoPACS network
at the University of Hertfordshire)
Astronomers have discovered another potentially habitable planet –
and it’s at least seven times the mass of Earth. Dwarf star HD 40307g
hosts a system of six planets, and one of those is believed have the
potential to support human life.
The newfound exoplanet was discovered by a team of astronomers from
the University of Hertfordshire and the University of Goettingen.
located a mere 44 light-years from Earth. And although that may seem
like a far distance, it’s actually just around the corner – cosmically
speaking. It’s so close that researchers say telescopes on Earth may be
able to image it directly.
The alien planet has been classified as
a super-Earth, meaning it’s larger than Earth but smaller than gas
planets such as Neptune.
It orbits at a distance of 55.8
million miles from the sun, which puts it in its host star’s habitable
zone – the region where liquid water can exist on a planet’s surface.
But it’s not just the possibility of water that has astronomers thinking the newfound planet could be habitable.
dwarf star is likely rotating on its own axis instead of having one
face permanently turned toward the sun. The result is an Earth-like day
and night cycle.
"The longer orbit of the new planet means
that its climate and atmosphere may be just right to support life. Just
as Goldilocks liked her porridge to be neither too hot nor too cold but
just right, this planet – or indeed any moons that it has – lie in an
orbit comparable to Earth, increasing the probability of it being
habitable," study co-author Hugh Jones said in a statement.
Exploring the exoplanet
previously detected three other super-Earths around the same host star –
all of which were in orbits too close to their sun to house water.
in a new study, a research team reanalyzed observations of the HD 40307
system by using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher,
The tool allows astronomers to pick up tiny gravitational wobbles that an orbiting planet induces in its parent star.
while the study brought forth a new discovery, astronomers say they’re
far from knowing all the answers surrounding the exoplanet.
The super-Earth may or may not be a rocky planet like earth, according to lead author Mikko Tuomi.
I had to guess, I would say 50-50… but the truth at the moment is that
we simply do not know whether the planet is a large Earth or a small,
warm Neptune without a solid surface,” Tuomi told SPACE.com.
next step for the team will be to use space-based telescopes to get a
more direct look at the exoplanet and examine its composition.
11/08/2012 06:45:00 PM
Thanks to: http://www.ascensionwithearth.com