Astronomers discover two potentially habitable Earth-like exoplanets

(ORDO NEWS) — An international scientific team led by researchers from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC) has discovered two exoplanets that orbit the red dwarf GJ 1002 and are in the habitable zone.

The newly discovered planets orbit the star GJ 1002, which is less than 16 light-years from the solar system. The masses of the planets are similar to the mass of the Earth. Planets are in the habitable zone of their star.

The orbital period of GJ 1002b is about 10 days, and the orbital period of GJ 1002c is about 21 days. “GJ 1002 is a red dwarf whose mass is barely one eighth that of the Sun. It is a rather cold, dim star.

This means that the habitable zone is very close to the star,” explains Vera Maria Passegger, paper co-author and IAC researcher.

The proximity of the star to our solar system implies that the two planets, especially GJ 1002c, are excellent candidates for characterizing atmospheres.

“The future ANDES spectrograph for ESO’s ELT telescope, in which IAC is involved, could study the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere of GJ 1002c,” notes Yonai I. González Hernández, IAC researcher and co-author of the paper.

Both planets could be targets for the future LIFE mission, which is currently under study.

The study was carried out using the ESPRESSO and CARMENES devices. GJ 1002 was observed by CARMENES between 2017 and 2019 and by ESPRESSO between 2019 and 2021.

“Due to the low temperature, visible light from GJ 1002 is too weak to measure velocity variations with most spectrographs,” says Ignaci Ribas, researcher at the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE-CSIC) and director of the Spanish Institute for the Study of Catalonia (IEEC).

The near-infrared sensitivity of CARMENES surpasses that of other spectrographs designed to detect changes in stellar velocities, making it possible to study GJ 1002 with this instrument at Calar Alto Observatory.

The combination of ESPRESSO and VLT allowed measurements to be made with an accuracy of just 30 cm/s, unattainable by other instruments.

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