Scientists have identified a planet which they say is a Super-Earth. They revealed that the planet is the best place to look for signs of life outside of the Solar System. The early indication reveal that it has an atmosphere and that it sits within the Goldilocks Zone where it is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist.
The planet is only 40 light years from Earth implying that it could be possible to send a signal. The lead author Jason Dittmann of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said that its the most exciting exoplanet he has seen in the past decade.
Dittmann revealed that the planet is the best target to perform one of the biggest quests in science – searching for evidence of life beyond Earth. The discovery was made by an international team of scientists who have been studying data from European Space Observatory’s High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher instrument. The instrument looks for regular changes in brightness of stars, which suggests a planet is passing by in orbit.
Named as LHS 1140b, the new world is ten times closer to its parent star than Earth. One of the team member from Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, Nicola Astudillo-Defru said that the present conditions of the red dwarf are particularly favourable since LHS 1140b spins more slowly and emits less high-energy radiation than other similar low-mass stars.
Based on our current understanding of the existence of life, a planet must have liquid surface water and retain an atmosphere. In this case, the planet’s large size and closeness to its sun means that a magma ocean could have existed on its surface for millions of years, which fed steam into the atmosphere, replenishing the planet with water.
The age of the planet is estimated to be at least five billion years. This indicates that its just a little older than Earth. Astronomers also deduced that it has a diameter 1.4 times larger than the Earth.
Its mass is around seven times greater than the Earth, and hence a much higher density, it implies that the exoplanet is probably made of rock with a dense iron core.
Several recent breakthroughs have been made in the hunt for alien life outside of the Solar System. Back in February scientists announced they had found a solar system strikingly like our own. The solar system was dubbed Trappist-1. According to experts it contains no less than seven Earth sized worlds.
Sometime last August, Professor Stephen Hawking announced a project to send spacecraft to the Alpha Centauri system Proxima B, which is thought to contain a rocky planet which could harbour life and is just five light years away.
A statement made by Xavier Delfosse, who is a member of French National Center for Scientific Research in France revealed that the LHS 1140 system might prove to be an even more important target for the future characterization of planets in the habitable zone than Proxima b or Trappist-1.