April 28, 2012
Reports Confirm Existence Of Habitable Exo-Planet
After re-evaluating information collected back in February, scientists reportedly confirmed on Friday that they had indeed discovered a planet outside of our solar system that is capable of supporting life.
The planet, which was been dubbed Gliese 667Cc, orbits around a red dwarf star located 22 light years away from Earth, according to published reports from the Telegraph. Scientists told the newspaper that Gliese 667Cc lies in what they refer to as the "habitable zone," which means that it is neither located too far from its sun to freeze nor too close to become dry and barren.
The discovery of this new planet was first revealed by an international team of scientists back in February. At that time, the team, which was led by led by Guillem Anglada-EscudÃ© and Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution, reported that the planet had an orbital period of 28.15 days, a minimum mass of 4.5 times that of Earth, and received 90% of the light that our planet typically receives.
However, because most of its incoming light was observed to be in the infrared, the scientists surmised that a higher percentage of this incoming energy should be absorbed by the planet. When both these effects are taken into account, the planet was expected to absorb about the same amount of energy from its star that the Earth absorbs from the Sun.
This would allow surface temperatures similar to Earth and perhaps liquid water, meaning that, while it was impossible to confirm that without additional information about the planet's atmosphere, that Gliese 667Cc was "the new best candidate to support liquid water and, perhaps, life as we know it," Anglada-EscudÃ© said at that time.
On Friday, the Telegraph published a report confirming the findings.
"Re-analyzing data from the European Southern Observatory, the astronomers found Gliese 667Cc is a solid planet with roughly four and a half times the mass of Earth," they said, adding that astronomers from the University of GÃ¶ttingen and the University of California "have calculated the planet receives ten per cent less light from its red dwarf star than the Earth gets from the Sun."
"It's the Holy Grail of exo-planet research to find a planet orbiting around a star at the right distance so it's not too close where it would lose all its water and not too far where it would freeze," University of California astronomer Steven Vogt said, according to the UK publication. "It's right there in the habitable zone -- there's no question or discussion about it. It is not on the edge. It is right in there."
In February, it was revealed that their work would be published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.