The star-planet system is zipping towards Earth. In about 79,000 years, they will replace Proxima Centauri and Proxima b as our closest star and closest potentially habitable exoplanet, respectively.
This artist’s impression shows the temperate planet Ross 128 b, with its red dwarf parent star in the background. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser
Sandhya Ramesh is a science writer focusing on astronomy and earth science.
Astronomers working with ESO’s High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) in Chile have discovered a temperate exoplanet orbiting the red giant star Ross 128. This planet is similar in size and mass to Earth’s and has surface temperatures that makes the planet possibly habitable. This is the closest potentially habitable, Earth-like world orbiting an inactive star – only 11 lightyears away.
The exoplanet was detected using HARPS, which employs the radial velocity method to search for exoplanets. When two bodies orbit each other, they both exert a gravitational force on the other. As a result, both bodies orbit around their common barycentre, the centre of mass of the entire system. In several cases (e.g., Earth orbiting around the Sun), the barycentre lies within the more massive body. So when an exoplanet orbits a much bigger body, ...