Astronomers now have discovered an Earth-like planet in the same solar system where “alien signals” were detected earlier this year.
Scientists have suggested exoplanet Ross 128 b, which is only 11 light years away and roughly the same size as Earth, could potentially harbor alien life because it is temperate and its star is relatively calm. The European Southern Observatory announced the planet’s discovery on 8th November, saying it would further investigate the world, looking for signs of biological activity and life-supporting conditions, using its Extremely Large Telescope in Chile.
|An artist’s impression of Ross 128 b, with its red dwarf parent star in the background. That relatively calm red dwarf star|
The exoplanet orbits a red dwarf star called Ross 128, the same star that scientists thought they had caught sending out weird radio signals earlier this year. Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory had picked up the broadband signals, which were described as semi-periodic pulses, and their mysterious nature got a lot of people excited about the prospect that they were a message from aliens. Abel Méndez, the director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at Arecibo, nicknamed them “the Weird! Signal”. Later as expected SETI suggested they were “transmissions from one or more geostationary satellites”.
But Méndez did not change his analysis in light of the new exoplanet discovery, but he said his group would keep an eye on that area of the sky.
“The presence of a planet in Ross 128 is a fortunate result for our research and we plan to continue observing this star,” he told International Business Times.
Astronomers found Ross 128 b using the ESO’s High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher — also known as HARPS — a piece of equipment attached to a telescope that is able to separate different frequencies of light for analysis. The instrument has helped discover dozens of exoplanets.
According to the research, the new planet completes an orbit around Ross 128 in just under 10 days. Although that means it is much closer to the star than Earth is to the sun — in fact, the scientists’ study in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics says it is about 20 times closer — a red dwarf emits significantly less heat, so the planet is able to hover closer than ours does without getting scorched. It is estimated that Ross 128 b’s surface temperature is close to Earth’s, because the luminosity of the star and the planet’s distance from it suggest the Earth-like world doesn’t get hit with much more energy than our own planet does.
Ross 128 b may also one day be closer to us than Proxima b, because its solar system is moving in our direction, according to the ESO. It “is expected to become our nearest stellar neighbour in just 79,000 years — a blink of the eye in cosmic terms.”