New exoplanet “best candidate” yet in search for alien life

by Brandon Russell | April 20, 2017

Scientists say a new exoplanet 40 light-years away is the best candidate yet for finding alien life. The news comes on the heels of an announcement in February, which found a group of planets scientists said could potentially be habitable.

Known as LHS 1140b, the rocky planet is said to sit in the habitable zone of its parent star, making it a prime candidate for alien life.

“This is the most exciting exoplanet I’ve seen in the past decade,” said astronomer Jason Dittmann. “We could hardly hope for a better target to perform one of the biggest quests in science—searching for evidence of life beyond Earth.”

This planet is located in the liquid water habitable zone surrounding its host star, a small, faint red star named LHS 1140. The planet weighs about 6.6 times the mass of Earth and is shown passing in front of LHS 1140. Depicted in blue is the atmosphere the planet may have retained.

According to Dittmann, LHS 1140b is about 1.4 times the diameter of Earth and 6.6 times its mass; Dittmann also claims the planet gets about 0.46 times as much light from its parent star compared to Earth. That’s because the planet orbits a red dwarf, which are typically about one-fifth the size of Earth’s sun and much cooler.

Scientists estimate the newly discovered planet is about five billion years old.

“The LHS 1140 system might prove to be an even more important target for the future characterization of planets in the habitable zone than Proxima b or TRAPPIST-1,” said Xavier Delfosse and Xavier Bonfils in a statement. “This has been a remarkable year for expoplanet discoveries!”

The team behind the new discovery plan to use the Hubble telescope to observe the planet to assess how much radiation it’s receiving from its parents star. This will give scientists a better understanding of whether or not the planet can sustain life.

ESO


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...