The universe is full of potentially habitable exoplanets, and another one has just been found 12 light-years away from Earth.
A newly discovered star system 12 light-years away has three worlds in the size range between Earth and Neptune, one of which is in the habitable zone of the star, where the temperature allows liquid water to exist.
GJ 1061d has approximately 1.7 times the mass of the Earth and is most likely a rocky world. The planet is in the so-called “habitable zone” of its star and, if it is rocky and has a suitable atmosphere, it may even have liquid water on its surface.
According to EurekAlert, this planet is the most external of the three discovered in this star system and orbits its star every 12 or 13 days. Since its red dwarf star is so small and cold, the close orbit means that it is a potentially temperate planet.
Additionally, the star appears to be older and less active than young red dwarfs, which makes the planet less likely to be affected by solar flares.
Besides the discovery of this new planetary system, scientists have also discovered a potentially rocky planet that orbits our closest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri.
About 15 exoplanet systems are known at a distance of 16 light-years, most around red dwarfs, also called type M stars. Together, these systems have 33 planets and more than half have more than one planet.
This new system resembles more distant ones, including the seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a red dwarf – TRAPPIST-1 – about 40 light-years away.
A team of astronomers, led by Stefan Dreizler of the University of Göttingen, in Germany, discovered the new system through the HARPS spectrograph on the telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in La Silla, Chile.
The instrument measures the “oscillations” in the motion of a star caused by the gravitational attraction of planets in orbit, a method of detecting exoplanets known as “radial velocity”. The article is available on the Astrophysics Data System.