(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists with an unquenchable thirst to find worlds that could support human life have discovered two Earth-like exoplanets.
Exoplanets have masses comparable to Earth’s , and they are in the habitable zone of their parent star GJ 1002, 15.8 light-years away. GJ 1002 is a relatively cool red dwarf of spectral type M5.5V.
The star GJ 1002 is 88% lighter and 86% smaller than our Sun , and its surface temperature is 2,751 degrees Celsius (for comparison, the solar surface temperature is 5,505 degrees).
A pair of exoplanets was discovered by a team of scientists from the Canarian Institute of Astrophysics (Spanish: Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias – IAC) in Spain.
Astrophysicist Vera Maria Passenger, co-author of the discovery, explained that GJ 1002 is “a rather cold and dim star. This means that the habitable zone is very close to the star.”
The habitable zone is the region around a star where liquid water can be stably present on the surface of planets orbiting that star.
In other words, this is the optimal place for the origin and maintenance of the life with which we are familiar from “earthly experience.”
The discovered exoplanets, named GJ 1002 b and GJ 1002 c, are notable for the most part because they are perhaps the closest Earth-like worlds to us.
By comparison, TOI-700 d, another Earth-like and potentially habitable exoplanet discovered by NASA, is just over 100 light-years from the solar system.
GJ 1002 b is located closer to its star and makes a complete revolution around the star in 10 days, and GJ 1002 c – in 20 days.
Despite the attractiveness of these worlds, scientists have yet to find out whether these exoplanets really have dense atmospheres, and whether their surfaces contain liquid water – one of the key conditions for sustaining life (the one that we know about, of course).
The discovery was made using two instruments – ESPRESSO (spectrograph for studying rocky exoplanets and stable spectroscopic observations) and CARMENES (search for class M dwarfs with high resolution in the near infrared and optical ranges) installed on terrestrial telescopes.
The search for exoplanets with traces of alien life or energy sources such as water and heat has been going on for quite some time, and advances in space exploration are making discoveries of potentially habitable planets ever more frequent.
The launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope on December 25, 2021 was a huge victory for astronomers as its discoveries offer new insights into how the universe works.
The relative proximity of GJ 1002 b and GJ 1002 c will make it possible in the foreseeable future to study exoplanets in detail, including the chemical composition of their atmospheres.
With technological progress moving forward by leaps and bounds, gigantic distances are no longer an insurmountable obstacle that prevents us from satisfying our curiosity.
Who knows, maybe one of these interesting planets will turn out to be habitable… That would be an incomparable discovery!
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