New planet discovered that could support life

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LONDON: An Anglo-German team of astronomers has discovered a new planet orbiting a nearby sun at just the right distance for an Earth-like climate that could support life.

The team actually found three new planets orbiting the star 44 light years away, but only one of them is in the so-called Goldilocks Zone, the band around a sun where temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist.

“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 Angla-Escude from Germany’s University of Goettingen, who led the research with Mikko Tuomi at the University of Hertfordshire in Britain.

The planet, named HD 40307g, has a mass at least seven times that of Earth but it orbits at about the same distance from its sun, meaning it receives a similar amount of solar energy as Earth gets.

More than 800 planets have been discovered outside our solar system since the first was detected in the 1990s, but only a handful of those have been in the habitable zone.

Even more rare are planets in the zone that rotate, as this one does, to create a daytime and nighttime, which increases the chance of an Earth-like environment. Those that don’t spin are said to be tidally locked, with one half in constant darkness.

“This is the closest one to Earth in a habitable zone that is not tidally locked,” University of Hertfordshire astronomer Hugh Jones said. – Reuters


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