New super-Earth Habitable

Astronomers have discovered another super-Earth in the "habitable zone" - meaning it could support liquid water and a stable atmosphere - around a nearby star, HD 40307. The previously discovered planets around it are called "hot super-Earths" because they orbit too close to the star to support life.

HD 40307 is a dwarf star that is somewhat smaller and less luminous than the Sun that is about 42 light years away (12.88 parsecs). Besides the super-Earths, it has three other low-mass planets orbiting it.

An international team of researchers used newly developed software that is able to process the signals more thoroughly and thereby reveal the presence of the three additional planets.



The new software "allows us to search deeper into the data and to find smaller Earth-sized planets around the nearest stars," said Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution. "This, of course, increases our chances of finding more in that orbital sweet spot that we call the habitable zone—the zone where it is not too cold, nor too hot for liquid water to exist."

The most interesting of the new planets is in the outermost orbit from the star, a distance that is similar to the distance between the Earth and our Sun. Its mass is at least seven times the mass of the Earth. The planet is likely rotating on its axis while in orbit, possibly creating a day/night cycle and an Earth-like environment.



"The star HD 40307 is a perfectly quiet old dwarf star, so there is no reason why such a planet could not sustain an Earth-like climate," said Guillem Anglada-Escudé of the University of Göttingen.

sources:

Carnegie Institution for Science
The international team includes include R. Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Tuomi, Anglada-Escudé, and Vogt, as well as Eugenio Rivera of UC Santa Cruz, Hugh Jones of the University of Hertfordshire, Enrico Gerlach of the Technical University of Dresden, and Ansgar Reiners of the University of Göttingen..

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