Astronomers discover two super-Earths orbitting a star 11 light-years away

WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Jun 26, 2020, 01:31 PM(IST)

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Both of them are close to the habitable zone of the star, a place where terrestrial planets can support liquid water on their surfaces.

Astronomers have discovered two super-Earth exoplanets orbiting a star 11 light-years away from Earth, according to a new study published in the journal Science.

The planets can be among the best opportunities for finding life outside of our solar system and shed light on the potential of a third planet orbiting a bit further away from the star.

A team of astronomers working on the Red Dots project, which is attempting to find terrestrial exoplanets closest to our sun, observed the star using the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

Also see: In a first, water found on earth-like planet beyond our solar system

The researchers believe the proximity of this planetary system just 11 light-years away will enable it to be studied more in the future.

The system orbits around the star Gliese 887, which is a small, dim red dwarf star about half the mass of our sun. and the brightest red dwarf in the sky.

Also read: What are NASA's exo-planets

Super-Earths like the newly found planets have a higher mass than the Earth but are much smaller than the ice giants of our solar system, Uranus and Neptune. And both of them are close to the habitable zone of the star, a place where terrestrial planets can support liquid water on their surfaces.

RedDots astronomers who are looking for planets around red dwarfs, were able to infer the planets around the star by using a technique called "Doppler wobble", which lets them watch for the tiny movements of the star that are caused by the gravitational pull of the planets around them.

They found that the star appeared to be orbited by planets that have orbits that would give them years of just 9.3 and 21.8 days on Earth. That suggests the planets are moving very quickly around their star, faster even than Mercury.

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