Scientists may have a new candidate on their hands when it comes to finding possible life on other planets. Of particular interest right now is the star Gliese 667C which has recently been found to have seven planets circling it of which three are so-called super earths.
Most scientists will tell you if asked that there is almost certainly life on other planets just because of the sheer number of them out there and that it’s just a matter of finding them. All of us have been conditioned to want to feel that we’re not alone and that there is something else going on – somewhere – outside of planet earth. From Close Encounters of the Third Kind to Star Wars, mankind has always longed for communication with some form of life out there. And scientists continue to search in the hopes that they can find these life-sustaining planets.
This star – Gliese 667C – that is currently making the news rounds is 22 million light years away from earth and is in the constellation of Scorpius for anybody who is curious about this star. It has just one third of the mass of the sun and is known as an M-dwarf star.
In the past, astronomers were only able to see three planets circling Gliese 667C, but thanks to new information due to ESO’s 3.6 meter telescope located in Chile astronomers can now see that there are seven planets rather than three around the star.
University of Hertfordshire’s Mikko Tuomi said, “We knew that the star had three planets from previous studies, so we wanted to see whether there were any more. By adding some new observations and revisiting existing data we were able to conform these three and confidently reveal several more. Finding three low-mass planets in the star’s habitable zone is very exciting.”
Just what are super earths? These are planets that are larger than planet earth but not quite as large as outer planets in our solar system like Neptune and Uranus. They’re also to be found close enough to Gilese 667C’s habitable zone which is a thinnish area that is found around a star where there might possibly be water that is in liquid form.
Rory Barnes says, “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.”
It is thought that these earth-like planets are probably quite rocky and that when it comes to their total mass they would most likely be 2.7 to 3.8 the mass of our planet.
To contain life on these planets they would have to have an atmosphere that was able to contain liquid water on the surface, but as they are 200 trillion km away there is currently no possible way to find out exactly what the conditions are actually like on these planets, and whether life is probable on them or not. Still, the sheer amount of possible habitable planets is very large if we were to assume that there are probably a few of them around each low-mass star we see.