The star Gliese 581 is probably surrounded by three exoplanets, including the newly discovered "super-earth". Image: ESO
Reading European astronomers have discovered the most earth-like planet outside of our solar system: it orbits a small star about 20 light-years from the Sun and, according to the researchers, has an average surface temperature between zero and forty degrees Celsius, so there could be liquid water. Thus, the planet is a promising candidate in the search for extraterrestrial life, the scientists believe. The team led by Stéphane Udry from the Geneva Observatory tracked the planet using a telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile. The newly discovered celestial body has a fifty percent greater radius than Earth and is five times as heavy. The planet surface is either rocky or covered with oceans, the astronomers suspect. Every 13 days, the new "Super Earth" orbits the Red Dwarf Gliese 581 in the constellation Libra. Though smaller and colder than the sun, this star is 14 times closer to its parent star than the earth to the sun, so it has fairly temperate temperatures of between zero and forty degrees Celsius on its surface. Thus, the planet is in the so-called habitable zone, so the area around a star, in which water can be liquid, explain the scientists.

The red dwarf Gliese 581 is about twenty light-years away from the earth and thus belongs to the nearest neighbors of the sun. Red dwarfs are suitable for the search for potentially habitable exoplanets, as they emit less light and their habitable zone is smaller than that of the sun, the researchers said. Just two years ago, the same research team discovered a Neptune-like planet at Gliese 581. Even then, the astronomers found evidence of another planet and thus continue their investigations. In addition, they suspect a third planet in the star system, whose mass should be about eight times the Earth.

Communication from the European Southern Observatory, Garching Original article: Stéphane Udry (Geneva Observatory) et al .: Astronomy and Astrophysics, in press ddp / Claudia Hilbert


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