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Three Habitable Alien Planets Have Been Discovered Pretty Close, So, You Know, Still Far, Far Away

It Came From Outer Space

A team of astronomers have discovered that in a local Star System there are three planets within the hospitable zone of the star.  In other words, it has been determined that three of these planets are capable of housing liquid water.  But before you pack your towel and hitchhike over to triple star system Gliese 667’s planets, remember that “local” is relative, and the planets in question are actually 22 light years, or 130-trillion miles, away.  This system, in the Scorpius constellation, contains a record breaking number of the Super-Earths based on our current knowledge of hospitable planets, and was discovered based on data from a European Southern Observatory telescope in Chile.

The three planets in the habitable zone surround the third star in the triple star system, Gliese 667C, and completely fill up the stable orbits in the habitable zone of the star.  This means that there are no more planets surrounding the star that could contain water, other than those three already identified.  These three Super-Earths, planets less massive than Uranus or Neptune but more so than Earth, could potentially allow for liquid water, but that is not a guarantee that they do.  However, interestingly, the other two stars in the system are thought to serve as an analogue for our moonlight at night, while the Gliese 667C provides light during the day.

The team of scientists who reevaluated the star system to make the discovery seem most excited about the prospect that multiple, habitable, low mass planets surrounding one star, presumably because this indicates that many planets very much like earth exist, and can be studied. Co-author of the paper on the discovery, Rory Barnes of the University of Washington, commented that,

The number of potentially habitable planets in our galaxy is much greater if we can expect to find several of them around each low-mass star — instead of looking at ten stars to look for a single potentially habitable planet, we now know we can look at just one star and find several of them.

Obviously, we have quite a way to go before sci-fi becomes reality, but this news is cool in general, as an indication that there could be more planets with liquid water out there.  Where there is liquid water, at least on earth, there is life.

(via Geekosystem, European Southern Observatory)

Previously in Science

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