BIO Space Sciences
Astronomers discover three ‘super-Earths’ in habitable zone of nearby solar system.
Three planets orbiting a nearby star could potentially support life, according to an international team of astronomers.
After combining new observations with data collected from a telescope in Chile’s La Silla Observatory, researchers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) say that Gliese 667C — a star located about 22 light-years away — may be orbited by up to seven planets.
Three of these planets are located at just the right distance from Gliese 667C to support life in what is known as its habitable zone. The discovery shows that stars as small as Gliese 667C, which is a little over a third of the mass of our Sun, are also good places to search for planets that could potentially support life.
“The number of potentially habitable planets in our galaxy is much greater if we can expect to find several of them around each low-mass star,” Rory Banes, co-author of the study responsible for this discovery, said in a statement released Tuesday. “Instead of looking at ten stars to look for a single potentially habitable planet, we now know we can look at just one star and find several of them.”
Led by Guillem Anglada-Escudé of the University of Göttingen, Germany and Mikko Tuomi of the U.K.’s University of Hertfordshire, the research team combined data gathered from the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) in Chile’s La Silla Observatory with previous data gathered from ESO's Very Large Telescope, Magellan II telescopes in Chile’s Las Campanas Observatory and the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii.
Previous studies of Gliese 667C had revealed three planets orbiting the star. Now, with the help of the HARPS — an instrument installed onto the La Silla Observatory’s 11-foot-10-inch telescope used to accurately measure the velocity at which the planets are moving — the research team has confirmed even more planets.