Astronomers locate three potentially habitable planets close to our sun
Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 4:32 PM -
A group of astronomers from Chile and the UK say they've discovered eight small planets orbiting nearby red dwarf stars, and three of them could be habitable.
In astronomical terms, the planets are just a hop, skip and a jump away from our solar system, ranging from 15 to 80 light years from our sun.
The discovery was made using the Ultraviolet and Visual Echelle Spectrograph (UVES) and the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), both operated by the European Southern Observatory.
By measuring the gravitational pull between the eight planets and the stars they orbit, scientists surmised that three planets not much larger than Earth are in the 'habitable zone'.
"We were looking at the data from UVES alone, and noticed some variability that could not be explained by random noise. By combining those observations with data from HARPS, we managed to spot this spectacular haul of planet candidates," said they study's lead author Mikko Tuomi. “We are clearly probing a highly abundant population of low-mass planets, and can readily expect to find many more in the near future – even around the very closest stars to the Sun.”
The complete findings can be found in the monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
WHAT IS THE HABITABLE ZONE?
The habitable zone, also referred to as the'Goldilocks zone', is defined as a planet that possesses enough atmospheric pressure to support liquid water on its surface.
Scientists believe that finding other habitable planets could provide keys to the origins of life on Earth.
NASA is making strides towards finding habitable worlds as well. The space agency recently discovered 700 new planets with the help of the Kepler telescope.
You can see how they did it here: