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Scientists discover promising super-earth planets only 11 light years away



A team of German astronomers has discovered two super-earths near the red dwarf star Gliese 887 and only 11 light years from Earth.

Super-earths are planets with a mass larger than that of the earth, but smaller than that of the ice giants Uranus and Neptune. The two exoplanets – or planets outside our solar system – were named Gliese 887b and Gliese 887c.

EXOPLANET LIGHT BIGGER THAN NEPTUNE FOUND NEAR THE EARTH

The astronomer Sandra Saffers from the University of Göttingen wrote a study on the exoplanets as part of the Red Dots campaign, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.

“These planets offer the best opportunities for more detailed studies, including finding life outside of our solar system,”

; Jeffers wrote.

The multiplanetar system of newly discovered super earths orbiting the nearby red dwarf star Gliese 887 can be seen in the impression of this artist. Mark Garlick / Handout on REUTERS.

The multiplanetar system of newly discovered super earths orbiting the nearby red dwarf star Gliese 887 can be seen in the impression of this artist. Mark Garlick / Handout on REUTERS.

The team monitored the system with the HARPS spectrograph (High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher) from the Chilean European Southern Observatory and analyzed archive data on Gliese 887 for almost 20 years.

Using a technique called “Doppler wobble,” they found that the planets had orbits of only 9.3 and 21.8 days – faster than Mercury’s highly elliptical 88-day orbit.

Gliese 887b and Gliese 887c are located near the habitable zone of their star, an area where liquid water may be present. However, measurements from Gliese 887c indicate a surface temperature of 158 degrees Fahrenheit or 70 degrees Celsius.

They could also be rocky planets, similar to Mars and Earth.

In addition, Gliese 887 is pretty quiet for a red dwarf star. Red dwarfs – though smaller and darker than our sun – often emit energetic torches that can destroy a planet’s atmosphere.

Red dwarf systems make up about 70 percent of the star population of the Milky Way.

The University of Göttingen confirmed on Thursday that favorable conditions on Gliese 887 mean that “the newly discovered planets retain their atmosphere or have thicker atmospheres than the earth and may harbor life”.

Saffers’ research also suggests that our exoplanet neighbors could ultimately be good targets for NASA’s much-delayed next-generation James Webb space telescope – a successor to the Hubble telescope that may provide more information, including whether have the Gliese 887 exoplanets or not atmospheres.

The team also found a signal out there that could correspond to a possible third planet that may be even better for life.

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According to NASA, more than 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered and are considered “confirmed”. However, there are thousands of other “candidate” exoplanet detections.

Since the first exoplanets were discovered in the early 1990s, the number of known exoplanets has doubled approximately every 27 months.


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