The potentially habitable exoplanet is located 16 light-years away in the star system Gliese 832 leading many to suggest we’ve got a possible “Earth 2.0” on our galactic doorstep.
Astrophysicists have confirmed they’ve discovered a small rocky exoplanet near our Sun’s nearest cosmic neighbor—Proxima Centauri—raising hopes of not only finding alien life in the universe but a planet that could be colonized in the future.
When scientists discovered—or better said confirmed the Trappist-1 system—everyone was so excited, as it reignited our hopes of discovering planets in the universe that could sustain life as we know it.
Image Credit: Suman Satyal
However, since the planetary system was discovered, numerous follow-up studies have cast doubt whether or not the star system was home to Earth-like planets capable of sustaining life as we know it. Trappist-1, located 39 light-years away has SEVEN planets that according to experts fall into the so-called “Habitable Zone.” However, numerous other factors—like the fact that they orbit a Red Dwarf—make them less likely to sustain life as we know it than initially thought.
This is mostly because an XMM-Newton X-ray study discovered that the Star—Trappist—emits X-rays at a level similar to our own much bigger Sun, and intense ultraviolet radiation at a level 50-fold more powerful than previously thought by scientists, which led experts to suggest the planets were less likely habitable as high levels of XUV make water retention on TRAPPIST-1d less likely than predicted previously.
But we aren’t here to write about Trappist one, are we?
In fact, we’ve got another reason why we should be excited, and that reason is an Earth-like alien world in the GJ 832 System which according to some authors could be the Earth 2.0 we’ve been searching all along.
A Studypresented in The Astrophysical Journal notes how the planet—located “only” 16 light-years away in the star system Gliese 832 appears to be stable and Earth-like.
According to the lead author of the study, Suman Satyal, UTA physics researcher “According to our calculations, this hypothetical alien world would probably have a mass between 1 to 15 Earths masses.” “This is an extraordinary breakthrough proving the possible existence of a potential new planet revolving a star close to our own,” UTA Physics Chair Alexander Weiss said in the press release. “The fact that Dr. Satyal was able to prove that the planet could maintain a stable orbit in the habitable zone of a red dwarf for more than 1 billion years is extremely impressive and demonstrates the world-class capabilities of our department’s astrophysics group.” Satyal further notes how, “The existence of this possible planet is supported by the long-term orbital stability of the system, orbital dynamics, and the synthetic radial velocity signal analysis… At the same time, a significantly large number of radial velocity observations, transit method studies, as well as direct imaging are still needed to confirm the presence of possible new planets in the Gliese 832 system.”
Ok, so what does all of this imply? It means that it’s really hard to find these worlds.
Astrophysicists note how the greatest question mark when speaking about the habitability of the exoplanet is whether or not it has water.
“That entirely depends on the formation, on the history of the planet,” said astronomer Ansgar Reiners, with the University of Gottingen in Germany. “You can come up with formation scenarios that end up with an Earth-like atmosphere, that end up with a Venus-like atmosphere, that end up with no atmosphere at all,” he added.
Nonetheless, it’s very exciting news. While experts still need to dig further, all reductions are strongly supported by scientific evidence which the research group has come up with.
But, even if the planet is a “Second” Earth, what good is it to us?
Well, even though we still can’t travel 16-light-years in our lifetime, technologies are drastically improving and being developed by numerous companies.
Image Credit: National Science Foundation / Zina Deretsky
Two perfect examples are SpaceX and the Breakthrough Initiatives which are helping us peer into a previously uncharted cosmic territory.
Take into account that Mars—the planet mankind wants to conquer next—is located around 12.5 light minutes from Earth, so managing to travel 16 light years should be something we’ll achieve in the near future.
In other words, this exoplanet could prove to be one of our best shots to explore and study an exoplanet that according to many scientists fits many habitable criteria.