Another nearby planet found that may be just right for life

TRAPPIST-1 Has Some Serious New Competition For Best Place to Find Aliens
Newly discovered exoplanet may be the best place to search for extraterrestrial life
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22 April, 2017

Artist's rendition of exoplanet LHS 1140b. It's 40 percent wider than Earth but it has 6.6 times Earth's mass, giving it a gravitational pull three times stronger, Charbonneau said. "We could hardly hope for a better target to perform one of the biggest quests in science-searching for evidence of life beyond Earth", lead author of the study, Jason Dittmann of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said of the find. Astronomers have confirmed a star 39 light-years away plays host to a planet that is much more Earth-like than any we've been able to spot in the past. This week, Harvard researchers announced the discovery of a planet called LHS 1140b hanging around not far from Earth.

According to a paper in Nature describing the findings, the planet seems temperate now, but millions of years ago, the star blasted LHS 1140b with ultraviolet rays.

A report from the Royal Astronomical Society explains that if a planet were to have substantial land and water coverage, "a delicate balance must be struck between the volume of water it retains over time, and how much space it has to store it in its oceanic basins".

Simpson found that the Earth's finely balanced oceans may be a outcome of the anthropic principle which accounts for how our observations of the universe are influenced by the requirement for the formation of sentient life. Classified as an M dwarf star, this particular star is one-fifth the size of the sun.

Sometimes, telescopes can capture the sliver of sunlight passing through the planet's atmosphere, revealing information about the atmospheric chemical composition.

In August 2016, a solitary habitable planet was found orbiting Earth's nearest star, Proxima Centauri.

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Using ESO's HARPS instrument at La Silla, and other telescopes around the world, an worldwide team of astronomers discovered a "super-Earth" orbiting in the habitable zone around the faint star LHS 1140. If initial on-Earth investigations indicate there are signs of life on the planet, the next step would naturally be to dispatch a probe.

It is also being said the larger planets are more prone to flooding compared to the smaller ones.

The next step will be to see if the planet has an atmosphere - a goal that should be hugely helped by the James Webb orbital telescope, due to be launched in October 2018 as a successor to the fabled Hubble.

Scientists are especially stoked that new telescopes they have been building could conceivably enable them to view the planet's atmosphere.

Dittmann thinks that the TRAPPIST-1 planets and LHS 1140b are exciting in their own right, and all deserve to be studied further.

"The present conditions of the red dwarf are particularly favorable - LHS 1140 spins more slowly and emits less high-energy radiation than other similar low-mass stars", team member Nicola Astudillo-Defru from Geneva Observatory, Switzerland, said of the exoplanet's parent star. We also expect - and hope to check with future data - that the star is very quiet at high energies as well. 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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