‘Super-Earth’ is closest planet yet that could support life

Thanks to a wobble in its host star, researchers from UNSW have spotted a planet only 16 light-years away that could harbor life (shown in an artist’s conception, above). However, being there would bear little resemblance to living on Earth. It’s at least five times as massive, for starters, and is so close to its sun that a year is only 16 days. Though you’d think that’d make the planet, called Gliese 832c, a fried hunk of rock, its sun is a red dwarf star which emits much less energy than our yellow dwarf. That means it’d receive about the same amount of heat energy, so scientists granted it an Earth Similarity Index (ESI) rating of 0.81 — the third best seen yet (Earth is 1.0). That said, living there could present some challenges. The extra gravity from its larger size could trap a denser atmosphere, resulting in a strong greenhouse effect and hellish, Venus-like climate. Life would also have to put up with that ridiculously short year and five times our gravity. Wait, much higher gravity and a red sun? This is starting to sound super-familiar.

[Image credit: PHL, University of Puerto Rica, Arecibo]



Article source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/01/super-earth-is-closest-planet-yet-that-could-support-life/?ncid=rss_truncated

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