The two worlds both orbit their star within the habitable zone, a region in space where life could exist in a liquid state on the surface of the planets.
In brief: Astronomers have found two alien planets that could host life, orbiting a Red Dwarf some 16 light years from Earth. Astronomers say that both worlds orbit their star within the habitable zone, a region in space where water could exist in a liquid state on the surface of a planet.
As new technologies emerge and as scientists get better and better at what they do, we find it is much easier to find new worlds in the galaxy. This was not always the case, and a few decades ago we thought that there were only planets in our solar system. Now we know this is not the case. In fact, based on NASA’s statistics, as of December 20, 2022, there are 5,227 confirmed alien planets. But 9,169 distant alien worlds are awaiting confirmation. All these confirmed and potential exoplanets are found in a total of 3,908 planetary systems. Some are similar to our solar system, and some are nothing like it. But each new discovery tells us more about our galaxy and what a diverse cosmic neighborhood we live in.
Now, scientists from the Institute of Astrophysics from the Canaries have reported discovering two new exciting worlds. They have found two planets with a mass similar to that of our own world orbiting a star dubbed GJ 1002. This star is a Red Giant and one of the most abundant stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. In addition to the fact that the planets are likely habitable, the star isn’t located that far away from Earth.
Scientists have reported that both worlds orbit their host star in the so-called habitable zone. Both planets are located some 16 light-years from Earth. The planet GJ 1002b is the innermost of the worlds. It takes a little more than ten days to complete a single orbit around its sun. The second planet, dubbed GJ 1002c, is in a slightly more distant orbit. It takes a little over 21 days to make a single orbit around its star.
To understand more about these worlds, astronomers are already planning new observations. The ANDES spectrograph of ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will study the presence of oxygen on both worlds. This will tell us more about the kind of planets we see and whether life as we know it developed there. As revealed in a statement, both these worlds have the necessary characteristics to be targets of the future LIFE mission, which is currently under study. LIFE is a space mission that is designed to characterize terrestrial exoplanet atmospheres and search for life outside of our own solar system.
This red dwarf is an interesting star because, according to astronomers, it is one-eighth the mass of the sun. It is a rather cool and dim star. This is not a bad thing, and for habitability and life is actually good news. As explained by astronomers, the habitable zone of the star is very close to it. This means that the alien planets (exoplanets) could potentially host life.
The discovery was made during a collaboration between the cooperation of two instruments called ESPRESSO and CARMENES. GJ 1002 was observed by CARMENES between 2017 and 2019 and by ESPRESSO between 2019 and 2021.
The discovery of both worlds has been reported in a paper in the Journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.