Astronomers Have Found an Earth-Size Planet That May Be Habitable

The planet is only 11 light-years away.

November 15, 2017 11:54 am
Sunlight eclipsing planet earth (Getty Images)

Astronomers have found an Earth-size planet that can hold liquid water and has conditions favorable for life, reports The New York TimesThe planet is circling a small red star in our corner of the galaxy.

It seems like this planet is the only one orbiting the star, named Ross 128. It is about 11 light-years rom Earth, and does not appear to have any violent eruptions of radiation that could wipe out any beginnings of life before they had a chance to take hold of the planet, reports The Times. 

“Those flares can sterilize the atmosphere of the planet,” said Xavier Bonfils of the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics in Grenoble, France, the lead author of a paper describing the planet, according to The Times. “Ross 128 is one of the quietest stars of the neighborhood.”

According to The Times, the astronomers did not actually see the planet, but instead, used a telescope to measure “wobbles in the wavelengths of light coming from the star.” Those movements are caused by the gravitational pull of the unseen planet. According to the scientists, the magnitude of the wobble shows the size of the planet, which they estimate is at least 1.35 times the mass of Earth.

Ross 128 appears to be at least five billion years old, which is older than our solar system, and could even be as old as 10 billion years. The new planet is close enough to the star that is absorbs warmth sufficient for liquid water, reports The Times.

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