Scientists discover 'nearby' Earth-like planet that could potentially support life

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The planet is slightly more massive than Earth, so it is probably a rocky world with a solid surface.

Dr Bonfils added: "New facilities at ESO will first play a critical role in building the census of Earth-mass planets amenable to characterisation".

The closest one, known as Proxima b, may be less hospitable for life.

"This discovery is based on more than a decade of HARPS intensive monitoring together with state-of-the-art. data-analysis techniques", co-author Nicola Astudillo-Defru said in a statement. "Only HARPS has demonstrated such a precision, and it remains the best planet hunter of its kind, 15 years after it began operations". It shows that Ross 128 b is more massive than the Earth, with at least 1.35 times our planet's bulk. The European Southern Observatory announced the planet's discovery on Wednesday, saying it would further investigate the world, looking for signs of biological activity and life-supporting conditions, using its Extremely Large Telescope in Chile.

"Usually stars that rotate fast are active; stars that rotate slowly - particularly, slower than 100 days - tend to be very quiet, so no flares, weak winds", Xavier Bonfils, an astronomer at the Institut de Planétologie et d'Astrophysique de Grenoble and lead author of the paper to appear in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, told CBC News.

There's still uncertainty about whether Ross 128 b is within the habitable zone, but scientists say that with temperatures of between -60 and +20°C, it can be considered temperate.

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The newfound world, dubbed Ross 128 b, is the closest temperate planet known to orbit a "quiet star" - one that isn't prone to devastating and potentially life-obliterating bursts of radiation.

The scientists involved in the discovery consider Ross 128b to be likely to hold life with liquid water expected to be on its surface.

"HARPS is a spectrograph specially created to measure the radial velocity of the stars", Nicola Astudillo-Defru, an astronomer with the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland and a member of the team that made the discovery, told Popular Mechanics in an e-mail. However, in "only" 79, 000 years, this will all change as Ross 128 is moving towards us.

Red dwarf stars are some of the coolest, faintest and more common stars in the universe which makes them prime candidates for finding planets which could potentially support life.

Proxima b is now the closest exoplanet to our solar system ever discovered, at a distance of 4.2 light-years. Ross 128 b will by then take the crown from Proxima b and become the closest exoplanet to Earth! After capturing the star at more than 150 points in time, they determined that they had enough evidence to confirm the presence of a planet. "For now, we will continue to monitor the star to search for evidence of additional companions".

Ross 128 is more like a 30-something with a good job, a membership in a yoga studio, and an extensive collection of James Taylor albums. The scientists still have to constrain where that habitable zone lies to figure out if Ross 128 b rests inside it.