A newly-discovered ‘super-earth’ at the edge of a star’s habitable zone could be a top contender for an alien planet beyond ours which supports life.
Gliese 163c, which lies beside a red dwarf star, has a mass of 6.9 times that of Earth and an orbital period of 26 days.
Researchers believe the new-found world’s location means it could be a super-earth where liquid water could exist.
Artistic representation of Gliese 163c as a rock-water world covered with a dense cloud layer (left).
Astronomers found it using the European Southern Observatory HARPS telescope (or High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher).
Xavier Bonfils, of France’s Joseph Fourier University-Grenoble, told SPACE.com: ‘There are a wide range of structures and compositions that allow Gliese 163c to be a habitable planet.’
The super-earth orbits a red dwarf star 49 light years away in the Dorado constellation.
Orbits and estimated relative sizes of the two innermost planets, b and c, around Gliese 163
On their research announcement the team said that ‘Gliese 163c could have a size between 1.8 to 2.4 Earth radii, depending if it is composed mostly of rock or water, respectively.’
It receives on average 40 per cent more light from its parent star than Earth from the Sun, making it hotter.
In comparison, Venus receives 90 per cent more light from the Sun than Earth.
Current six potential habitable exoplanets ranked by similarity with Earth (Earth = 1.00). Four of these objects have been detected in the last year, from September 2011 to today. Gliese 163c is represented here as a rock-water world of 2.4 Earth radii, however, it could be as small as 1.8 Earth radii if composed mostly of rock, like Earth