Astronomers have discovered two super-Earths orbiting the star of 11 light-years

Astronomers have discovered two super-Earths orbiting the star of 11 light-years

Astronomers have discovered two super-Earths orbiting the star of 11 light-years

Known as "super-Earths" because they're larger than Earth but are thought to be rocky planets like our own, rather than gas giants. Most exoplanets are discovered by monitoring stars for a small dip in luminance caused by planets passing in front of them.

"The exciting thing about these planets are that they orbit a star so close to the Sun, and so very bright", UNSW-based planet hunter Prof Chris Tinney, who is a co-author on the paper, said.

An artist's impression of the multiplanetary system of super-Earths orbiting the nearby red dwarf star Lacaille 9352.

The star is much dimmer and about half the size of our Sun, which means that the habitable zone is closer to Lacaille 9352 than Earth's distance from the Sun.

The new planets were found using a high-precision, planet-finding instrument on the European Southern Observatory's 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla in Chile.

"GJ 887 is an unusual host star, as it is relatively inactive, and the planetary system happens to be very close to our Sun". These two exoplanets (planets located outside of our solar system) have been named Gliese 887b and Gliese 887c, respectively.

Regular signals detected indicate the presence of two planets, super-Earths to be specific -Gliese 887b and Gliese 887c - with orbiting periods of 9.3 and 21.8 days. The "RedDots" team from the University of Göttingen has reported the discovery of two new exoplanets just a few stars away orbiting Gliese 887, and they're of the potentially habitable variety. What is even more interesting is that these planets have a structure similar to that of our planet and are capable of hosting extraterrestrial life. More active stars are prone to risky flares, which could easily destroy a planet's atmosphere. The other interesting feature the team discovered is that the brightness of Gliese 887 is nearly constant. At the same time, the team also observed a single jiggle, of a potential planet making a 50-day orbit in the star's temperate zone. One of them is based on how distant worlds block out some light from their stars when they pass in front of their stars - from the perspective of the observer.

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.

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