Dec 20 (): Scientists have discovered a planet at a distance of just 12 light years away from Earth orbiting a star similar to our sun that could have an appropriate environment to withstand the right conditions for life or liquid water to exist.
This planet is one of the five planets thought to be orbiting star, Tau Ceti, 12 light years away which is almost identical to the sun. An international team of researchers from Chile, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom believe that this planet is within the star’s habitable zone, where conditions are suitable for life.
Astronomers estimate the Tau Ceti planets to be two to six times bigger than Earth. But, the Earth-like planet has a minimum mass just 4.3 times that of Earth and this potential planet would be the smallest yet found in the habitable zone of a sun-like star if it’s confirmed, researchers said.
The Tau Ceti planetary family is thought to be the lowest mass solar system yet detected. Tau Ceti is slightly smaller and less luminous than our sun. This sun-like star is 11.9 light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Cetus (the Whale) and is visible in the night sky with naked eye.
Astronomers reveal that the five planets that they have discovered to the nearest sun-like star “Tau Ceti” were found not through telescope but by calculating the effect these planets have on their sun’s light. Planets on another nearby star Centauri, were also found through this method.
By using the highly sensitive methods, the scientists took more than 6,000 observations from three different instruments using improved “noise-modelling” procedures to spot the vibration in the star caused by the gravitational pull of the planets.
These new analysis methods would help in future to search for more small planets throughout the galaxy, researchers said.
Over 800 planets have been discovered orbiting other worlds beyond the sun since 1990s, but planets in orbit around the nearest Sun-like stars are particularly valuable and are the most interesting to the astronomers.