Scientists find neighbor star with three planets in life-friendly orbits

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida Tue Jun 25, 2013 8:27pm EDT

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - A neighbor star has at least six planets in orbit, including three circling at the right distance for water to exist, a condition believed to be necessary for life, scientists said on Tuesday.

Previously, the star known as Gliese 667C was found to be hosting three planets, one of which was located in its so-called "habitable zone" where temperatures could support liquid surface water. That planet and two newly found sibling worlds are bigger than Earth, but smaller than Neptune.

"This is the first time that three such planets have been spotted orbiting in this zone in the same system," astronomer Paul Butler, with the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.

Scientists say the discovery of three planets in a star's habitable zone raises the odds of finding Earth-like worlds where conditions might have been suitable for life to evolve.

"Instead of looking at 10 stars to look for a single potentially habitable planet, we now know we can look at just one star and have a high chance of finding several of them," astronomer Rory Barnes, with the University of Washington, said in a statement.

Additional observations of Gliese 667C and a reanalysis of existing data showed it hosts at least six, and possibly, seven planets.

The star is located relatively close to Earth, just 22 light years (129 trillion miles/207 trillion km) away. It is about one-third the size of the sun and the faintest star of a triple star system.

In addition to the three well-positioned "super-Earths," two more planets may orbit on the fringe of the star's habitable zone and also could possibly support life.

The research will be published this week in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

(Editing by Kevin Gray and Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (6)
morbas wrote:
This is an astrometric very close in star. However, having a small Sun requires a close orbit, and close orbits tend to lock planets rotation synchronous with orbits. Thus one side always faces the star. This would be a ideal target for a FOCAL radio telescope mission. Three target planets for comparative analysis within one system mission.

Jun 26, 2013 7:39am EDT  --  Report as abuse
AlfredReaud wrote:
Isn’t this one of the star systems in one of those maps allegedly given by aliens in the Betty and Barney Hill abduction case? Yeah, I know, it wouldn’t take long for us to come out of the woodwork, but it would be interesting if something like that correlated.

Jun 26, 2013 9:40am EDT  --  Report as abuse
lylelwr wrote:
“just 22 light years away” It might as well be 22 thousand light years. With our current propulsion methods of about 10 miles per second it would take approx 400,000 years to get there. If in the future we could invent something that’s a thoudand times faster(let’s say 10,000 miles per second) it would still take over 400 years. NASA need to be putting more of it’s budget into propulsion instead of parting it out into hundreds of pet projects.

Jun 26, 2013 1:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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