Astronomers found, in the distant star named Gliese 667C, at least six new planets, three of them are super-Earths, meaning they could have 10 times the mass of Earth, and they are located in the Goldilocks, or habitable, zone.
Previous studies showed three planets in the star Gliese 667C, only one of them within the “habitable zone” and now with some new data, the astronomers Mikko Tuomi of the University of Hertfordshire in the UK and Guillem Anglada-Escude of the University of Gottingen in Germany re-examined the star Gliese 667C and gathered relevant information with the help from ESO´s Very Large Telescope in Chile, the WM Keck Observatory and the Magellan Telescopes. “We knew that the star had three planets from previous studies, so wanted to see whether there were any more. By adding some new observations and revisiting existing data we were able to confirm these three confidently reveal several more”, says Tuomi, according to ESO.
A planet like Earth is capable of supporting life when it meets certain conditions, for example:
Temperature: Influences how fast atoms and molecules move. Life range of minus 15 ° C to 115 °C. At about 125 °C, protein, carbohydrates molecules and genetic material start breaking apart.
Water: It is essential because it evaporates and transports chemicals within and to the cell.
Atmosphere: A filter that shields the surface from dangerous radiation, providing chemicals needed for life, like nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Small planets or moons don´t have enough gravity to hold atmosphere.
Energy: Organisms use light or chemical energy to run their life processes. In star systems, the inner planets get too much sunlight for life; the outer planets get too little.
Nutrients: Without chemicals to make proteins and carbohydrates, organisms cannot grow. Planets need water cycles and an atmosphere to circulate nutrients.
The Astronomers found that star Gliese 667C is very similar to our Sun, although it is less hot. “This is the first time that three such planets have been spotted orbiting in this zone in the same system.” said Paul Butler from the Carnegie Institute for Science.
The astronomers refer to a planet as being within the “habitable zone” when the planet orbits a stable star for billions of years, when it is located at an optimum distance from the star – not hot or too cold – and when it has a circular orbit and constant conditions prevail the entire “year.”
Solar systems like ours are very common in the Milky Way, however, they aren´t habitable because they are too close to their Sun-like stars.
Dr. Rory Barnes, from the University of Washington in the U.S. said, enthusiastically, “Instead of looking at 10 stars we need to look for single potentially habitable planets, we now know we can look at just one star and find several of them.”
For astronomers – and for people in general – the idea of finding a new Earth is fascinating and keeps us dreaming. However in reality, if those planets had life, it would be hard to reach them with the technology of today. But, still; for astronomers, the discovery of three Earths around the star Gliese 667C is “very exciting”, commented Tuomi.
By: Oskar Guzman