A group of international astronomers have discovered 60 new planets – raising the chances of finding one that could support life.
In a solar system not far from our own, the experts also found evidence of an additional 54 planets, bringing the potential discovery of new worlds to 114.
And at least some of those might be like Earth, and able to support life.
One planet in particular, Gliese 411-b, has been generating plenty of attention. The hot ‘super-Earth’ has a rocky surface and is found in the fourth nearest star system to our own, making it practically a neighbour.
Despite it’s ‘Earth’ status, Dr. Mikko Tuomi from University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Astrophysics told Fox News that Gliese 411b is too hot for life to exist on its surface.
But scientists believe the planet is significant because it suggests that ‘virtually all the nearest stars to the Sun have planets orbiting them. Planets that could be like Earth.’
The results are based on almost 61,000 individual observations of 1,600 stars taken over a 20-year period using the Keck-I telescope in Hawaii, according to the University of Hertfordshire’s report.
In essence, we are now building an observational roadmap for future giant telescopes that can be used to image some or even most of these newly found worlds. This is like mapping an archipelago so that we are familiar with it in the future when taking a closer look at what its islands actually look like.
How scientists discover these planets is, in many ways, as important as the discovered planets themselves.
So while the red hot ‘super-Earth’ Gliese 411-b may not be able to support life, it sure does suggest that others around it could.