Astronomers have been discovering exoplanets, planets that could be very similar to our Earth. Thanks to space telescopes like the Kepler and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), astronomers have discovered two, possibly three “super-Earths” orbit a bright but quiet red dwarf star sitting just 11 light-years from Earth.
Super Earths Discovered
A group of researchers at the Institute for Astrophysics at Goettingen University in Germany announced the possibility of discovering two or even three super Earths orbiting a bright start, just 11 light-years from Earth. The team has been searching nearby starts one by one for high-quality exoplanet targets to be studied directly.
Based on decades of data, the team of researchers have discovered promising targets and was published in the journal Science. The newly discovered exoplanets are quite unique. Dubbed as Gliese 887, the system combines traits of gases surrounding the planets, which also reveals information about their climates.
Initially, the group saw hints of the planets in 2017, but it was too scattered to be conclusive. Again in 2018, they went back to Gliese 887 and observed it every day for three months with the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument in Chile. In the end, they generated a visualization analogous to a time-lapse movie, which revealed that the Gliese 887 was jiggling.
The team of researchers discovered that the Gliese 887 bobbed approximately every nine, and every 22 days. They concluded that these were unmistakable signs of two nearby planets, which could weigh at least four and seven times as much as the Earth, respectively. At the same time, the team also observed a single jiggle, of a potential planet making a 50-day orbit in the star’s temperate zone.
The observations reveal that the newly discovered worlds are quite close to their sun for water to exist on their surfaces. The first two planets are confirmed to be too hot to host life as we know it. The third planet is still under observation for two more months, which should confirm to the researchers to either prove or disprove its existence. Nevertheless, exoplanets just 11 light-years away from our Earth is quite a discovery.
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