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Super Earth Found 21 Light-Years Away May Support Alien Life

First Posted: May 31, 2017 08:14 AM EDT
Habitable Planet
"Super Earth" planet orbiting nearby star just discovered. (Image used for representation only.)
(Photo : nemesis maturity/YouTube screenshot)

A potentially habitable Earth-like planet has been discovered orbiting the GJ625 (Gliese 625) star 21 light-years away. According to scientists, the celestial world may host surface liquid water.

A research team from Canary Island’s Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) spotted the planet in the habitable zone of its host star, NDTV reported. It was found to have a mass twice to thrice that of Earth. Incidentally, this is the sixth super-Earth discovered nearest to the solar system, which also happens to be located in its parent star’s habitable zone.

"As GJ625 is a relatively cool star, the planet is situated at the edge of its habitability zone, in which liquid water can exist on its surface," said IAC’s Alejandro Suarez.Mascareno, as reported by Deccan Chronicle. "In fact, depending on the cloud cover of its atmosphere and on its rotation, it could potentially be habitable."

The GJ625 star is a red dwarf that is one of the 100 closest stars to the Sun. Such stars are among the most common in the universe and can host planets. The newly discovered super-Earth takes around 14 days to make one full orbit of its sun.

The astronomers used the radial velocity technique to detect the planet. This technique measures the changes in velocity and position when the host star and its planet rotate around their gravity’s common center. The gravity determines the magnitude of the change in the star’s velocity, depending on the relative masses of the two objects. This can be measured with the help of the observed spectrum. According to scientists, only a few rocky planets have been detected around close stars using the radial velocity technique.

The research team also added that new observing campaigns of photometric observations will be crucial to understanding the transit of the super-Earth across GJ625 in the future. There is also a likelihood that there are more rocky planets that orbit around GJ625, and the scientists will keep a lookout for these.

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