Scientists: Earth-like planets 'Right next door' - New York News

Scientists: Earth-like planets 'Right next door'

Posted: Updated:
(Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

Earth-like worlds may be closer and more plentiful than anyone imagined.

Astronomers reported Wednesday that the closest Earth-like planet may be just 13 light years away. That planet hasn't been found yet, but should be there based on the team's study of red dwarf stars. Galactically speaking, it's a stroll across the park.

"We now know the rate of occurrence of habitable planets around the most common stars in our galaxy," said study co-author David Charbonneau. "That rate implies that it will be significantly easier to search for life beyond the solar system than we previously thought."

Small, cool red dwarfs are the most common stars in our galaxy, numbering 75 billion.

Despite their dimness, these stars are good places to look for Earth-like planets, according to a release. Red dwarfs make up three out of every four stars in our galaxy for a total of at least 75 billion. The signal of a transiting planet is larger since the star itself is smaller, so an Earth-sized world blocks more of the star's disk. And since a planet has to orbit a cool star closer in order to be in the habitable zone, it's more likely to transit from our point of view.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics team estimates 6 percent of red dwarf stars have Earth-like planets. To qualify, the planet must be roughly the size of Earth and get as much light from its star, as Earth does from the sun.

This high rate of occurrence should simplify the search for extraterrestrial life.

The authors of the study say locating nearby, Earth-like worlds may require a dedicated small space telescope, or a large network of ground-based telescopes.

"You don't need an Earth clone to have life," said Harvard astronomer and lead author Courtney Dressing.

The three habitable-zone planetary candidates identified in this study are Kepler Object of Interest (KOI) 1422.02, which is 90 percent the size of Earth in a 20-day orbit; KOI 2626.01, 1.4 times the size of Earth in a 38-day orbit; and KOI 854.01, 1.7 times the size of Earth in a 56-day orbit. All three are located about 300 to 600 light-years away and orbit stars with temperatures between 5,700 and 5,900 degrees Fahrenheit. (For comparison, our Sun's surface is 10,000 degrees F.)

These results will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

MYFOXNY/AP

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Search for arsonist targeting Brooklyn churches

    Search for arsonist targeting Brooklyn churches

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 9:09 AM EDT2014-04-16 13:09:23 GMT
    The hunt is on for the person who has set fires at three churches in three days in Brooklyn during Holy Week. Police say the first fire was started at 2:45 a.m. Saturday at The Greater New Beginnings Church in East Flatbush. They say newspapers were lit inside the doorway of the church.
    The hunt is on for the person who has set fires at three churches in three days in Brooklyn during Holy Week. Police say the first fire was started at 2:45 a.m. Saturday at The Greater New Beginnings Church in East Flatbush. They say newspapers were lit inside the doorway of the church.
  • Robert De Niro says Tribeca Film Festival is his passion

    Robert De Niro says Tribeca Film Festival is his passion

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 8:01 AM EDT2014-04-16 12:01:20 GMT
    Robert De Niro is a family man, a filmmaker, an entrepreneur and one of my favorite actors of all time. He's also a co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, which has more to see than ever before. De Niro wears just as many hats on screen as he does in real life. The father of six starred in six films last year, owns four restaurants and a hotel, and still finds time each spring for the Tribeca Film Festival, Lower Manhattan's annual cinematic showcase.
    Robert De Niro is a family man, a filmmaker, an entrepreneur and one of my favorite actors of all time. He's also a co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, which has more to see than ever before. De Niro wears just as many hats on screen as he does in real life. The father of six starred in six films last year, owns four restaurants and a hotel, and still finds time each spring for the Tribeca Film Festival, Lower Manhattan's annual cinematic showcase.
  • NYC exploring ways to curb taxi speeds

    NYC exploring ways to curb taxi speeds

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 7:14 AM EDT2014-04-16 11:14:53 GMT
    New York City is exploring ways to curb the speed of taxis. The Taxi and Limousine Commission this week issued a request for information on "anti speeding vehicle technologies."  The measures include devices that can intervene when drivers exceed posted speeds and "advisory systems" that can sound alarms when reckless driving is detected.
    New York City is exploring ways to curb the speed of taxis. The Taxi and Limousine Commission this week issued a request for information on "anti speeding vehicle technologies."  The measures include devices that can intervene when drivers exceed posted speeds and "advisory systems" that can sound alarms when reckless driving is detected.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices