Thursday, August 10, 2017

Potentially Habitable 'Super-Earths' Found Orbiting around Sun's near Neighbor

Two planets that orbit around a star like our own sun could support life
Two planets that orbit around a star like our own sun could support life, according to new research.

The two worlds at the edges of star Tau Ceti's "habitable zone" are part of a system of planets that are similar in size to our own. That is a breakthrough because it suggests that we might soon be able to find other planets that are habitable like our own Earth, researchers said.

The proximity of the planets and their similarity to Earth mean that they could eventually be a home for humans, according to the astronomers behind the research. But doing so might be a risky expedition.

  • The star appears to be circled by a huge disc of debris, which could suggest the worlds are being regularly hit by asteroids and comets.

Astronomers are especially excited by the discovery because the planets are as small as 1.7 times our size. That makes them the smallest worlds ever found around a star like our own sun, and has knock-on effects for the search for other planets like ours.

Their size was found by observing how much of a "wobble" the planets could exert over their nearby star. As planets pass by their sun, they lead it to move a little – and the size of that move can be seen in the light that comes to Earth from the star.

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