Ross 128 b orbits its parent starA potentially habitable planet, called Ross 128 b, has been discovered just 11 light years away from Earth. It is roughly Earth-sized and orbits its parent star once every 9.9 days. Its surface temperature lies somewhere between -60°C and 20°C (-76°F and 68°F), which is similar to Earth. It is possible that liquid water is present, and therefore life—but neither have been detected so far. Ross 128 b was discovered by a team of astronomers using a planet-hunting telescope at the European Southern Observatory (ESO), La Silla, Chile. This identifies planets not be viewing them in the night sky—they are far too tiny—but by the way their gravity causes their parent stars to wobble very slightly.
All images Iztok Boncina/ESO
Artist's impression of the planet's surface
Ross 128 b is more massive than the Earth, with at least 1.35 times our planet’s mass. This means someone on its surface would feel a stronger pull of gravity. The exoplanet—a term given to planets discovered orbiting stars in solar systems other than our own—is 20 times closer to its star than the Earth is to the Sun. (This gives it a much shorter orbit, which is why its year lasts just 9.9 days.) Ross 128 b doesn't have a blisteringly hot surface, however, because the star is a red dwarf, which is a far smaller and cooler type of star than the Sun.
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