On Wednesday, a team of European scientists announced the discovery of an Earth-size exoplanet orbiting a star just 11 light-years away.
Scientists at the La Silla Observatory in Chile detected Ross 128 b using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), which measures wobbles in stars that have planets orbiting them.
But these are comparatively hard to detect; most of the 3,500 known exoplanets are so-called Hot Jupiters - huge gas giants orbiting very close to their parent stars that likely don't have suitable conditions for life. But it is close enough to Ross 128 that it absorbs warmth sufficient for liquid water, one of the requisite ingredients for life, to potentially exist on the surface.
The closest exoplanet to us, Proxima b, orbits the star Proxima Centauri, a very active red-dwarf star that emits powerful radiation. "Ross 128 is one of the quietest stars of our sample, and although it is a little further away from us, it makes for an excellent alternative target".
Dr Bonfils said it seems that Ross 128 is a much quieter star, and so its planets may be the 'closest known comfortable abode for possible life'. That's because unlike other stars, such as Proxima Centauri, Ross 128b doesn't produce deadly ultraviolet flares and X-ray radiation.
"Ross 128b is very close, which will allow us to see it with a telescope such as E-ELT (European Extremely Large Telescope) in construction for 2025", Bonfils said.
Astronomers have spotted a roughly Earth-mass world circling the small, dim star Ross 128, which lies just 11 light-years from the sun. Ross 128 b's location - either inside, outside or on the edge of the habitable zone - could determine whether the planet's surface could contain liquid water.
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While the exact age of the star isn't known, the team of researchers estimate that Ross 128 is about five billion years old.
Its most recent discovery came in early 2017 and featured an impressive 10 new planets all of which fall within the "goldilocks zone". The parent star is a red dwarf, meaning it's low in mass and barely half the Sun's temperature.
It's the closest temperate planet to be discovered after Proxima b, which is about 4 light-years away.
Due to their plentiful nature and the fact that other exoplanets have been found around these types of stars, red dwarfs are being studied and observed with increasing frequency in the hopes of finding more exoplanets.
Often, red dwarfs release periodic flares. It's actually easier to detect exoplanets around red dwarfs because the stars are much fainter (none are visible with the naked eye from Earth) and thus don't wash out their surroundings as drastically. "It is common that stars harbor more than a single planet", Astudillo-Defru told Futurism.
So, while Ross 128 b is a potentially habitable world, we haven't found aliens yet.
Ross 128 itself could even yield more Earth-like exoplanets.