Spotted on the BBC News website: A story about the discovery of an earth-like (or at least more Earth-like than Jupiter-like) planet in the “Goldilocks” zone of a star a mere 20 light years or so away!
Scientists made the discovery using the Eso 3.6m Telescope in Chile.
They say the benign temperatures on the planet mean any water there could exist in liquid form, and this raises the chances it could also harbour life.
“We have estimated that the mean temperature of this ‘super-Earth’ lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius, and water would thus be liquid,” explained Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory, lead author of the scientific paper reporting the result.
“Moreover, its radius should be only 1.5 times the Earth’s radius, and models predict that the planet should be either rocky – like our Earth – or covered with oceans.”
Reading a bit further on:
The exoplanet – as astronomers call planets around a star other than the Sun – is the smallest yet found, and completes a full orbit of its parent star in just 13 days.
Indeed, it is 14 times closer to its star than the Earth is to our Sun.
However, given that the host star is smaller and colder than the Sun – and thus less luminous – the planet nevertheless lies in the “habitable zone”, the region around a star where water could be liquid.
To make their discovery, researchers used a very sensitive instrument that can measure tiny changes in the velocity of a star as it experiences the gravitational tug of a nearby planet.
This is quite exciting, although I do wish that they’d clarify the use of “life” to the more cautious “life as we know it”, or “as far as we understand”, but I always have that gripe about such articles.