I want to go to there.
Using public data from the European Southern Observatory, scientists from several universities — including Guillem Anglada-Escudé and Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution for Science and Steven Vogt and Eugenio Rivera of UC Santa Cruz — have detected a possibly habitable planet orbiting an M-class dwarf star only 22 light years from Earth. There may be two other planets orbiting the same star, but they are likely not in the habitable zone where liquid water could exist. The planet in the habitable zone is called GJ 667Cc and is called a super-Earth. Its mass is at least 4.5 times that of Earth and it makes a full orbit of its tiny host star every 28.15 days.
The host star, GJ 667C, is part of a triple star system along with two orange K dwarf stars. All three stars have approximately 75% fewer heavier elements, such as carbon and metals, than our Sun, which makes the presence of multiple planets surprising. Steven Vogt spoke of this surprise in the press release:
“This was expected to be a rather unlikely star to host planets. Yet there they are, around a very nearby, metal-poor example of the most common type of star in our galaxy. The detection of this planet, this nearby and this soon, implies that our galaxy must be teeming with billions of potentially habitable rocky planets.”
Although the host star is small, GJ 667Cc still receives about 90% as much light as Earth. Since most of the light is infrared, of which the planet would absorb a higher percentage, GJ 667Cc likely absorbs the same total amount of energy from the star as we get from our Sun. As lead researcher Guillem Anglada-Escudé states, “This planet is the new best candidate to support liquid water and, perhaps, life as we know it.”
Yeah, but it’d be life evolving with a bunch of infrared light present. Oh god, they’re Predators aren’t they? And only 22 light years away? Save us, Danny Glover!
[Images courtesy of Guillem Anglada-Escudé, Carnegie Institution]