A team of scientists using data from the European Southern Observatory, have determined there is a potentially Earth-like planet in a nearby solar system, only 22 light years away, but it’s at least 4.5 times the mass of Earth!
In addition to the public data from the European Southern Observatory, they were incorporating new measurements from the Keck Observatory’s High Resolution Echelle Spectrograph and the new Carnegie Planet Finder Spectrograph at the Magellan II Telescope. The technique used to find the planet was the effect of the planet’s gravity on the star – making it wobble.
The super-Earth planet in question is called GJ 667Cc. GJ 667C is the name of the star, GJ 667AB are a pair of orange K dwarfs that reside in the same solar system – yes, it’s a triple-star system – and GJ667Cb is another ‘super-Earth’ planet that has an orbit too close to the sun to be of a life-friendly temperature. The new planet discovered has an orbital period of 28.15 days and receives about 90% of the light that Earth gets. However, since this star gives off mostly infrared light, being an M-class dwarf star, the percentage of energy absorbed should be higher. This means the planet most likely absorbs the same amount of energy as good ol’ Mother Earth.
Anglada-Escudé, one of the leading scientists on the project, claims that, “This planet is the new best candidate to support liquid water and, perhaps, life as we know it.”
Of course, nothing can be confirmed until we get more information about the planets atmosphere – even though it has the same energy absorption as Earth, we don’t know enough yet to know if liquid water can actually be sustained on its surface.
But who knows? Only a century ago, the idea of being able to fly across the world in a few hours seemed a ridiculously impossible feat. Perhaps in another century, the idea of travelling a couple of light years might not be so hard? Maybe we can start populating the Universe and have a United Federation of Planets? Maybe the planet GJ 667Cc is already populated with inhabitants that are enslaved by a race of aliens that attach themselves to human brains? Maybe they’ve got a prime directive that they can’t violate, and we’re just some quaint little planet that doesn’t quite get it yet.
Let’s just make sure we rein them in when they decide to build robotic slaves.
[Via Science Daily]