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Ross 128 b: This nearby Earth-sized planet might support alien life, astronomers say

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Posted at 8:30 AM, Nov 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-16 08:30:45-05

It turns out there's an Earth-sized world just next door cosmically that could theoretically support alien life, according to Al Jazeera.

Ross 128 b is only 11 light-years away and "revolves around a so-called 'quiet star,' so it does not get blasted with harmful radiation."

The European Southern Observatory announced its findings on Wednesday after spending more than 10 years monitoring the red dwarf star it orbits from an observatory in Chile.

The planet is 20 times closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun, meaning it completes one orbit in just 10 Earth days, according to The Verge. However, the star is 280 times dimmer than our Sun, meaning it approximately evens out and may have a similar surface temperature to Earth.

“We have found extremely interesting planets like the ones orbiting Proxima Centauri or TRAPPIST-1; however, these stars do not present the best conditions for life,” Nicola Astudillo-Defru, an astronomer at the University of Geneva in Switzerland and a lead author on the study, told The Verge. “Hence, it is more likely (we’ll) find (signs of life) on Ross 128 b than any other star.”

Unfortunately, the planet cannot be directly observed since no telescopes exist that are powerful enough to peer at it closely. A very appropriately named piece of equipment, the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), is slated to be finished in 2025, so we might get a closer look at Ross 128 b then, The Verge reports.

“If we are able to identify all three (water vapor, oxygen and methane) in the same exoplanet atmosphere, it would be a smoking gun for life on the surface,” Xavier Bonfils, an astronomer at the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics in Grenoble, France, and lead author of the study, told The Verge.