Astronomers have just found an exoplanet almost exactly the same size as Earth orbiting a small star not too far away—astronomically speaking, at 72 light-years from our Sun.
An alien planet dubbed K2-415 b has been confirmed by scientists orbiting a star some 72 light-years from Earth. The exoplanet, which is believed to be almost the size of Earth, orbits a red dwarf called K2-415. According to a paper published in the preprint server arXiv, the similarities but also differences with our planet can shed light on how distant alien worlds form and evolve in solar systems that are much different from ours. According to astronomer Teruyuki Hiran from the Center of Astrobiology in Japan, such worlds that orbit M Dwarf stars offer an excellent opportunity for scientists to explore the atmospheric diversity of rocky planets and the conditions that could rule on such a potentially habitable world. While the planet is intriguing, its host star is no less interesting. It is one of the lowest-mass stars home to a transiting Earth-size planet. This makes K2-415 an attractive astronomical target for future observations, including radial velocity monitoring and transit spectroscopy, astronomers have revealed.
An alien world that is both similar and different
Even though K2-415 b is similar to Earth’s size, astronomers have reported that its mass is far greater than our planet’s. Based on initial calculations, astronomers estimate the mass of K2-415 b to be three times that of the world we live in. This means that the exoplanet is much denser than Earth. Furthermore, it orbits its host star in proximity, taking no more than four days to complete one full revolution. And although the habitable zones around M Dwarfs can be located much closer to the star itself, this orbit is a bit too close for comfort.
On the edge of the habitable zone
Nonetheless, K2-415b is still located within the border of the host star’s habitable zone, which means that astronomers could be lucky enough and have an atmosphere to study. This exoplanet can be compared more or less to Venus in our solar system. Venus is just inside the habitable zone of our home star, but it has a highly dense atmosphere. Despite it being in the habitable zone, there are minimum chances that this planet is home to alien life. But even though it may not be home to alien lifeforms, the solar system is an excellent target for atmospheric characterization of exoplanets and follow-up studies searching for hidden worlds. K2-415 is likely a multi-planetary system, just like our solar system, and this raises the possibility of a currently undetected exoplanet orbiting its star in the habitable zone. The paper detailing the discovery has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.