New contender in hunt for alien life discovered by astronomers

New contender in hunt for alien life discovered by astronomers

This artist's impression video shows an imaginary trip to the exoplanet LHS 1140b, which orbits a red dwarf star 40 light-years from Earth and may.

The planet is around 1.4 times the size of Earth but is more than seven times heavier, suggesting it is probably made of rock with a dense iron core. During this period, it is possible that radiation from a red dwarf could strip away significant amounts of the water content of a planet's atmosphere, which could induce the kind of conditions we see on Venus today.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Astronomers have found yet another planet that seems to have just the right Goldilocks combination for life: Not so hot and not so cold.

'We could hardly hope for a better target to perform one of the biggest quests in science - searching for evidence of life beyond Earth'.

The closest Earth-sized habitable-zone planet to us, circling Proxima Centauri, lies only 4.2 light years away, but does not transit in front of its star relative to our point of view, so we can not see the planet or its atmosphere.

"I am really, really excited about this discovery", David Charbonneau, study author and professor of astronomy at Harvard University told WIRED.

The first planet outside our solar system was discovered in 1995, but thanks to new techniques and especially NASA's planet-hunting Kepler telescope, the number of them has exploded in recent years.

With the help of an amateur Aussie astronomer, scientists have discovered a planet circling a nearby star and believe it is a strong candidate for harbouring life.

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Recently, NASA announced the discovery of a star known as TRAPPIST-1 which was found to have seven planets orbiting it. The exoplanet is in the Cetus constellation, which is relatively close at just 40 light years away. They are the most common stars in the Galaxy, making up 75% of its population of stars. Effectively, the star and the planet orbit around a mutual centre, which falls somewhere inside the star for most planets.

Further observations from the High Accuracy Radial-velocity Planet Searcher, or HARPS, led the researchers to estimate the planet's mass at 6.6 times that of Earth. Not a lot of super-Earths have been found to sit in the habitable zone, so this rare find raises the possibility that there could be a lot more planets like this one. "This has been a remarkable year for exoplanet discoveries!" wrote Delfosse and Bonfils. "Once the star had calmed down a bit, the magma would cool and start to release its water and other gases, forming the planet's atmosphere".

Still, he said he's confident that astronomers will find a habitable planet soon, be it LHS 1140b or another. The signal for star LHS 1140 looked like the telltale dip in light that signifies an exoplanet in orbit.

To top it off, LHS 1140b was spotted in the habitable zone.

The Webb telescope is expected to launch next year, but the Giant Magellan telescope won't be online until 2025, and the EELT won't be working until 2024.

"I hope that we can go after both of these systems' atmospheres so that we can compare them to each other", Dittman said.

Scientists believe that liquid water and an atmosphere are two prerequisites needed for life. This means that even though this "super-Earth" is orbiting much closer to its star, it's only receiving about half as much sunlight as we do. And that means there's a better chance that this planet may be holding onto some valuable chemicals, like organic molecules and water. "We've been delighted to hear about the discovery of LHS by our colleagues from Harvard", he said. Once it's completed, JWT will be the most powerful space-based telescope ever deployed - it will be used to peer into the atmospheres of all of these planets and more.

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