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A super-Earth has been found that exceeds the habitable zone of a nearby star

A super-Earth has been found that exceeds the habitable zone of a nearby star

Thanks to a powerful new instrument recently installed on the Subaru Telescope, astronomers have been able to observe a “super-Earth” located in the habitable zone of a star relatively close to us.

Why super earth

Its name is Ross 508 b, and scientists classify it as a super-Earth because it is a rocky planet, just like ours, but four times more massive. This exoplanet revolves around a red dwarf, about 37 light years away from us, so we can say that from an astronomical point of view it is part of our planet.Star neighborhoodBut the interesting features of this discovery did not end there. In fact, astronomers are convinced that Ross 508b will enter, for at least part of its elliptical orbit, the so-called “habitable zone”, an area that would essentially allow the presence of water. The liquid is on the surface, and thus it will also open up apertures for the search for life outside our planet. The presence or absence of water and life is, of course, an unexplored question.

The green area represents the habitable zone, where liquid water can exist on the planet’s surface. The planet’s orbit, the super-Earth, is represented by a blue line. Ross 508b touches the inner edge of the habitable zone (solid line), and is likely to cross it for part of its orbit (dashed line). Credits: Center for Astrobiology

New tool to find exoplanets

Red dwarfs are very faint stars and not very bright, but they represent most of the stars in the universe, and therefore in our galaxy as well. Precisely for this reason, astronomers have tried to build a tool that allows these difficult targets to be studied in the best possible way. And so, the Center for Astrobiology in Japan developed an infrared observing instrument (precisely where red dwarfs are brightest) and installed it on the Subaru Telescope, a gigantic telescope with a diameter of more than 8 meters perched atop the Mauna Kea volcano, on the Isle of Man. Hawaii, with the aim of searching for signs of planets orbiting these small stars. With this first positive result, we can expect the Subaru telescope to discover many more potentially habitable planets around red dwarfs in the future.

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