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Ross 128 b: A ‘Temperate’ Planet?

15 Nov 2017, 11:52 UTC
Ross 128 b: A ‘Temperate’ Planet?
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At 10.89 light years from Earth, Ross 128 is the twelfth closest star to the Solar System, a red dwarf (M4V) first cataloged in 1926 by astronomer Frank Elmore Ross. Now we have news that a team working with the European Southern Observatory’s HARPS spectrograph (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher) at the La Silla Observatory in Chile has discovered an Earth-sized planet orbiting Ross 128 every 9.9 days, a world whose orbit could conceivably place it in the habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on the surface. That gives us a second nearby world in an interesting orbit, the other of course being Proxima Centauri b.
What gives the Ross 128 b detection a wrinkle of astrobiological interest is that the star the planet orbits is relatively inactive. Red dwarfs are known for the flares that can flood nearby planets with ultraviolet and X-ray radiation. Compounded with the fact that habitable zone planets must orbit quite close to a parent M-dwarf (given the star’s small size and low temperature compared to the Sun), such flares could act as a brake on the development of life.
Ross 128 b may thus have a higher likelihood for astrobiological activity ...

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