Aliens Next Door? Potentially Habitable Super-Earth Found 12 Light-Years Away

A Super-Earth 1.5 times the mass of Earth orbits a Red Dwarf located around 12 light-years from Earth. The Super-Earth orbits its sun within the so-called Habitable Zone; an area around the star where temperatures are just right for water to exist in a liquid state.

Another fascinating alien solar system has been discovered in our galaxy. The star system is located around 12 light-years away from Earth. Three planets ranging in size from Neptune-sized planets to Earth-sized planets orbit the star. One of the planets orbits the star in the so-called habitable zone, an area around the star where temperatures are just right for water to exist in a liquid state. This planet is also believed to be a super-earth. Astronomers have also discovered a “fourth signal,” which is most likely explained by stellar rotation, although it may be due to a planet.

The most interesting of the three (possibly four) is an alien world dubbed GJ 1061d; it is approximately 1.5 times the mass of Earth and is most likely a rocky world. The energy it receives from its star is between what Earth and Mars receive from our Sun. In other words, the planet falls into the “Goldilocks zone” of its star. If it is a rocky world and has a proper atmosphere, GJ 1061d could have water on its surface. The planet is the outermost of the three discovered in this system, and yet it orbits its star every 12 or 13 days.

The alien Sun these three planets orbit is a red dwarf, small and cold, which means that GJ 1061d is a potentially temperate planet. Furthermore, the star appears to be older and less active than young red dwarfs, making the planet less prone to cataclysmic stellar eruptions. Observations, for now, have not determined the composition of GJ 1061d or whether it has an atmosphere. The discovery of this new planetary system, whose other two planets also surpass Earth in terms of size, is part of an unusual scientific campaign called the “Red Dots” collaboration – a reference to Carl Sagan and his labeling of our planet as a pale blue dot.

Earth as viewed from Neptune. NASA.
Earth as viewed from Neptune. NASA.

The project “Red Dots” looks for red dwarf stars within 16 light-years of Earth. The project focuses on one star at a time and has produced exciting discoveries, including that of a potentially rocky planet orbiting our closest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri.

About 15 exoplanet systems are known in a radius of 16 light-years around our solar system, and most of the planet’s orbit red dwarfs also called M-type stars. Together, these systems have 33 planets; more than half of them have more than one planet orbiting their host star. And the new system resembles more distant ones, including the seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a red TRAPPIST-1 dwarf, about 40 light-years away.

An international team led by Stefan Dreizler from the University of Gottingen in Germany discovered the new system using the HARPS spectrograph at the 3.6-meter European Southern Observatory telescope in La Silla, Chile. The instrument measures “oscillations” in the motion of a star caused by the gravitational pulls of orbiting planets, a method of detecting exoplanets known as “radial velocity.”

As revealed by NASA, the three new exoplanets were among nine new worlds included in NASA’s Exoplanet Archive on March 5, 2020.

The discovery of the new planets is detailed in a new study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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