Earth-like planet found close to solar system

Conditions just right for life to exist, say scientists

A new planet that may have an earth-like climate and be just right to support life has been discovered at the cosmic backyard of the solar system.

The new super-earth exists in the habitable zone of a nearby star and is part of a six-planet system revolving around a star named HD40307. One of the planets is in the “Goldilock’s Zone” where the planetary condition is just right for life to exist.

Of the new planets, the one of greatest interest is the one with the outermost orbit from the star – with a mass at least seven times of the earth.

Its orbit around the host star is at a similar distance to earth’s orbit around our sun. As a result it receives similar amount of energy from the star as the earth receives from the sun - increasing the probability of it being habitable.

Scientists believe this is the planet where presence of liquid water and stable atmosphere to support life is possible. The planet is likely to be rotating on its own axis as it orbits around the star creating a daytime and night-time effect on the planet which would be better at creating an earth-like environment.

“The longer orbit of the new planet means that its climate and atmosphere may be just right to support life. Just as Goldilocks liked her porridge to be neither too hot nor too cold but just right, this planet or indeed any moons that it has, lie in an orbit comparable to earth, increasing the probability of it being habitable,” said Hugh Jones, a member of an international team of scientists from the University of Hertfordshire, UK who found the new exo-planet.

Ever since the discovery of first exo-planet way back in 1995, close to 800 exo-planets have already been identified by scientists. However, the search is still on to find out a planet, which will have conditions to support life.

“The star HD40307, is a perfectly quiet old dwarf star, so there is no reason why such a planet could not sustain an earth-like climate,” said Guillem Angla-Escude, another team member at the University of Goettingen. The paper has been accepted for publication in the journal “Astronomy and Astrophysics”.

Earlier this year, Nasa’s Kepler spacecraft found a planet with a similar orbit. However, Kepler 22d is located 600 light years from earth, whereas this new super-earth planet is much closer, being located at 44 light years from earth. One light year is a cosmic scale of distance, which is just under 10 trillion km.

The planetary system around HD40307 was previously thought to contain three planets in orbits too close to the star to support liquid water.

“We pioneered new data analysis techniques, which significantly increased our sensitivity and enabled us to reveal three new super-earth planets around the star making it into a six-planet system,” said Mikko Tuomi, the first author of the study from the University of Hertfordshire.

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