Astronomers working at an observatory in Chile have discovered a new planet that could potentially be able to sustain human life, according to a leading intergovernmental astronomy organization in Europe.
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) said on November 15 that “Ross 128 b” had been discovered after more than a decade of intensive monitoring and data analysis by a team working with the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at Chile’s La Silla Observatory.
Ross 128 b is situated at around 11 light-years from Earth – making it the second-closest potentially habitable exoplanet to be found. (Exoplanets are planets outside our solar system that orbit a star). Proxima Centauri b is the nearest exoplanet, at 4.22 light years. However, the ESO said Ross 128 b currently seems more habitable than Proxima Centauri because it orbits an inactive red dwarf star – which is less prone to potentially lethal solar flares than Proxima’s red dwarf star. Proxima Centauri b also receives about 30 times more extreme ultraviolet radiation than Earth, according to the BBC.
Ross 128 b is 1.35 times the size of Earth, and receives only a little more radiation from its star.
Scientists hope that more can be learned when the ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) is ready for use in 2024.