The quest for a second Earth continues as astronomers found a new super Earth planet candidate that could be habitable. Scientists are still cautious, but the new potentially habitable planet is only 42 light years away from Earth.
There have been other Earth-like planets that made the headlines before, but it looks like HD 40307g is the closest to our planet in the habitable zone. There are only 42 light years from Earth to HD 40307g and while that’s still mindboggling math (1 light year is 9.4605284 x 1015 meters) it is right in the neighborhood compared to other super-Earth candidates.
Earlier this week, scientists published a review of old data that found HD 40307g as a likely Earth. The paper published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics explains the new technique used to measure the existing data on nearby stars. On the overall there are three new planet candidates added to the list, but HD 40307g seems to be the most likely to support liquid water and even life.
“The planetary system around HD 40307 has an architecture radically different from that of the solar system” reads the paper signed by lead researcher Mikko Tuomi and Guillem Anglada-Escude. Using data gathered by the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) in Chile, experts analyzed the waves of light and energy sent by the dwarf star in the planetary system.
Scientists says that the new super-Earth candidate is just far enough from the dwarf star HD 40307 that it could even have a night and day, since it is able to rotate freely, unlike the planets closer to it. According to astronomer Steven Vogt with the University of California’s Lick Observatory, “all we know at this point is that it has a minimum mass of about 7.1 Earth-masses”.
The new super-Earth planet candidate should be getting 62 percent of the radiation level our planet gets from the sun, based on experts’ estimates. “Even though the radiation is somewhat low compared to that received by the Earth, we note that the Earth lies actually reasonably close to the inner boundary of the sun’s habitable zone” the paper added.
But is the new super-Earth candidate planet a rocky one? Does it even have an atmosphere? Study co-author Hugh Jones believes “it’s likely that it’s sufficient in mass that it does have an atmosphere”. “The longer orbit of the new planet means that its climate and atmosphere may be just right to support life” he added.