Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

New study suggests nearby exoplanet Ross 128 b could support life

A new study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters provides even more reason to think Ross 128 b, the second closest exoplanet to Earth, could harbor life.

Illustration by NASA


In 2017, a team of scientists using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at the La Silla Observatory in Chile discovered Ross 128 b, an Earth-size exoplanet orbiting a star 11 light-years away from our solar system. It was proposed then that the exoplanet could be habitable, given its similarities to Earth.

Now, a new study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters provides even more reason to think Ross 128 b, the second closest exoplanet to Earth, could harbor life.

A team of scientists led by Diogo Souto of Brazil’s Observatório Nacional set out to learn more about the exoplanet by observing Ross 128, the star it orbits. Ross 128 is a red dwarf star, a type much smaller and cooler than our sun.

“Until recently, it was difficult to obtain detailed chemical abundances for this kind of star,” Dr. Souto said.

However, Souto’s team was able to use the Sloan Digital Sky’s Apache Point Galactic Evolution Experiment (APOGEE) spectrographs to study Ross 128, specifically its levels of carbon, oxygen, magnesium, aluminum, potassium, calcium, titanium, and iron in the star.

This information provides clues about the star’s exoplanet. That’s because exoplanets are formed from a disk of gas and dust that rotates around young stars.


Image provided by ESO/M. Kornmesser

“The star’s chemistry can influence the contents of the disk, as well as the resulting planet’s mineralogy and interior structure,” Carnegie Science, whose Johanna Teske participated in the study, wrote. “For example, the amount of magnesium, iron, and silicon in a planet will control the mass ratio of its internal core and mantle layers.”

The team found that Ross 128 has iron levels similar to the Sun. Based on the star’s ratio of iron to magnesium, the researchers were able to estimate its probable mass and radius. These measurements allowed them to determine that Ross 128 b likely has a rocky surface.

 

The observations also suggest that, though the exoplanet is 20 times closer to its star and takes just 9.9 days to orbit it, Ross 128 b probably has a temperate climate. This puts it in the Goldilocks Zone, which describes a range of distance from a star in which temperatures are just right—not too hot, not too cold.

“Get too close to the star, and the heat will eventually boil off the oceans,” Abel Mendez, planetary astrobiologist and professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, told Forbes. “Get too far away, and temperatures go so low that even if there’s water, it’s frozen.”

Currently, astronomers have identified more than 50 exoplanets that seem to have the conditions necessary to support life.

“It’s exciting what we can learn about another planet by determining what the light from its host star tells us about the system’s chemistry,” Souto said. “Although Ross 128 b is not Earth’s twin, and there is still much we don’t know about its potential geologic activity, we were able to strengthen the argument that it’s a temperate planet that could potentially have liquid water on its surface.”

LIVE ON MONDAY | "Lights, camera, activism!" with Judith Light

Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo

Keep reading Show less

Scientists see 'rarest event ever recorded' in search for dark matter

The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.

Image source: Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
  • The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
  • The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
Keep reading Show less

The mind-blowing science of black holes

What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.

Videos
  • When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
  • A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
  • Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."

Space travel could create language unintelligible to people on Earth

A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.

Cylindrical space colony.

Credit: NASA Ames Research Center.
Surprising Science
  • A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
  • Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
  • This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast