New Delhi: Are there other exoplanets in space similar to Earth that can support life? Well, maybe yes! An international team of researchers has discovered two super-Earth planets orbiting the nearby star Gliese 887, the brightest red dwarf star in the sky, just 11 light-years away from us. Also Read - Earth's Eighth Continent? 2020 Brings New Surprise as Maps of 'Zealandia' Released in Latest Data
The results published in the journal Science, state that the newly discovered super-Earths lie close to the red dwarf’s habitable zone, where water can exist in liquid form and could be rocky worlds. These two exoplanets (planets located outside of our solar system) have been named Gliese 887b and Gliese 887c, respectively.
Notably, Super-Earths are planets that have a mass higher than the Earth’s but substantially below those of our local ice giants, Uranus and Neptune.
For their study, the RedDots team of astronomers monitored the red dwarf using the HARPS spectrograph at the European Southern Observatory in Chile and used a technique known as ‘Doppler wobble’.
The method enabled them to measure the tiny back and forth wobbles of the star caused by the gravitational pull of the planets. Based on their observations, researchers found that Gliese 887b and Gliese 887c had orbital periods of just 9.3 and 21.8 days.
Despite being so close to the star, scientists believe they are in the habitable zone of the cooler red dwarf. In addition, they could potentially be rocky planets, much like Mars and Earth.
“These planets will provide the best possibilities for more detailed studies, including the search for life outside our solar system,” said Dr Sandra Jeffers, from the University of Gottingen and lead author of the study.
While Gliese 887 is one of the closest stars to the Sun, it is much dimmer and about half the size of our Sun. Researchers also found that GJ887 has very few starspots, meaning it isn’t as active as our Sun.
So, the newly discovered planets could possibly have retained their atmospheres, or have thicker atmospheres than the Earth indicating that they could potentially host life.
Additionally, the researchers also found that the brightness from the red dwarf star is almost constant, making it easier for space telescopes to look for the atmospheres on the super-Earths.
(With ANI inputs)