Astronomers have discovered two potentially habitable worlds orbiting a red dwarf star in our cosmic backyard. Planets beyond the Sun, or “exoplanets,” are only 16 light-years away and have a mass similar to our own.
are located inresidential areaTheir star, GJ 1002, was determined to be a shell around a star that is neither too hot nor too cold to support liquid water, an essential ingredient for life.
“Nature wants to show us that Earth-like planets are very common,” said study author Alejandro Suarez Mascareño of the Instituto Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC). statement (opens in new tab). “With these two, we now know of seven in planetary systems quite close to the sun.”
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Because liquid water is essential for life to exist, planets in the habitable zones are the focus of our search for life elsewhere. universe, although simply being in the habitable zone is no guarantee of supporting life. For example, in the solar system, both Venus and mars They are in the Sun’s habitable zone, but none of them can currently support life.
Because GJ 1002 is a relatively cool red dwarf, its habitable zone and these two new exoplanets are closer to it than to Earth. the sun. The innermost planet, identified as GJ 1002b, takes just 10 days to orbit the star, while the outer planet, GJ 1002c, completes its orbit in 21 days.
“GJ 1002 is a red dwarf star with almost one-eighth the mass of the Sun,” said study co-author and IAC researcher Vera Maria Passegger. “It’s a fairly cool, faint star. That means its habitable zone is very close to the star.”
Both planets’ close proximity to Earth means they could be excellent targets for astronomers looking to study the atmospheres of Earth-like worlds. solar system.
The exoplanets were discovered as a result of a collaboration between the ESPRESSO (Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanets and Stable Spectroscopic Observations) instrument of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Very Large Telescope CARMENES (Calar Alto High-Resolution Search for M Dwarfs with Exoiers with Near-Infrared and Optical Echelle Spectrographs) in the Atacama Desert region (VLT) of northern Chile and the Calar Alto Observatory in Andalucia, southern Spain.
The two instruments observed the planets’ host star during two separate periods, with CARMENES studying GJ 1002 between 2017 and 2019, and ESPRESSO collecting data from the red dwarf between 2019 and 2021.
CARMENES’s sensitivity to a wide range of near-infrared wavelengths makes it well-suited to detect changes in the velocities of stars that can indicate orbiting planets.
“Due to its low temperature, visible light from GJ 1002 is too faint to measure changes in speed with most spectrographs,” said Ignacy Ribas, a researcher at the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE-CSIC).
While the light-gathering power of ESPRESSO and the VLT allows astronomers to make observations of the system not possible with any other Earth-based telescope, the combination of these two powerful instruments has struggled to achieve in isolation and led to their discovery exoplanets.
“If each of the two groups had solved this case independently, they would have had a lot of trouble,” concluded Suarez Mascarenho. “Together we have been able to make more progress than we could have done independently.”
Astronomers now hope to use the ANDES spectrograph Very Large Telescope It is built in the atmosphere of GJ 1002c.
The team’s research was published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. (opens in new tab)
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