Astronomers discover two super-Earths orbitting a star 11 light-years away

Super-Earths

Super-Earths

Another thing that the researchers found is that Gliese 887's brightness is quite constant, which would make future studies of the super-Earths' atmospheres much easier.

This celestial body has several peculiarities: it is located at a distance of about 10.7 light-years from Earth and is the brightest red dwarf in the sky with nearly half the mass of the Sun.

Planets classified as Super-Earths have masses higher than that of Earth.

Super-Earths like the newly found planets have a higher mass than the Earth but are much smaller than the ice giants of our solar system, Uranus and Neptune.

Also, Gliese 887 is pretty quiet for a red dwarf star. But given its proximity, it's the brightest red dwarf in the sky.

Apart from discovering the nearby super-Earths, the researchers also found that Gliese 887 has very few sunspots, which means that it is not as active as the Sun and would therefore not sweep away the super-Earths' atmospheres.

It is much dimmer than, and about half the size of, our Sun.

The newly discovered super-Earths could be rocky worlds, and lie close to the habitable zone of this red dwarf star - the zone where water could exist in liquid form on a planetary surface.

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The team monitored the system using the Radial High Speed Planet Finder (HARPS) spectrograph from the European Southern Observatory of Chile and analyzed almost 20 years of archival data in Gliese 887. This so-called wobble occurs when the star moves back and forth due to the gravitational pull of the planets orbiting it.

Based on their findings, astronomers claim that the outer planets have short orbits of no more than 9.3 and 21.8 days. It is estimated that the temperature of 887c is around 70 C.

An worldwide team of astronomers has detected super-Earths orbiting a nearby star just 11 lightyears away. Gliese 887 is exceptionally inactive in terms of energetic outbursts and dark starspots, meaning it could be hospitable to life on the planets in its orbit. But most of those planets orbit distant and faint stars, ' he said.

Astronomers might have a chance to analyze the atmosphere of other worlds from the galaxy.

This means that the newly discovered planets may retain their atmospheres, or have thicker atmospheres than the Earth, and potentially host life, the team wrote.

The star Gliese 887 is the best near us to study the atmospheres of its exoplanets since it is a bright and peaceful celestial body. That's still too far to even begin to think about visiting with our current technology, but it's close enough that the next generation of high-powered telescopes - starting with the James Webb Space Telescope if it ever manages to get off the ground - could be capable of revealing more about the planets than scientists have ever known about any world outside of our solar neighborhood.

Writing in a related comment piece, Melvyn Davies, professor of astronomy at Lund University in Sweden - who was not involved in the research, said: "If further observations confirm the presence of the third planet in the habitable zone, then GJ 887 could become one of the most studied planetary systems in the Solar neighbourhood".

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