Potential habitable exoplanet found around a red dwarf

Last Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 13:33

London: Astronomers have discovered a new super-earth in the habitable zone around the red dwarf star Gliese 163.

The exoplanet `Gliese 163c` has a mass of 6.9 times that of Earth and an orbital period of 26 days.

Astronomers using the European Southern Observatory HARPS telescope (or High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher) found it orbitting a red dwarf star 49 light years away in the Dorado constellation, the Daily Mail reported.

"Gliese 163c could have a size between 1.8 to 2.4 Earth radii, depending if it is composed mostly of rock or water, respectively," researchers said.

A super-Earth is an extrasolar planet with a mass higher than Earth`s, but substantially below the mass of the Solar System`s smaller gas giants Uranus and Neptune.

The term super-Earth refers only to the mass of the planet, and does not imply anything about the surface conditions or habitability.

"We do not know the properties of the atmosphere of Gliese 163c but, if we assume that it is a scaled up version of Earth`s atmosphere, then its surface temperature might be around 60 degree Celsius," the researchers were quoted as saying by the paper.

Gliese 163c receives on average 40 per cent more light from its parent star than Earth from the Sun, making it hotter.

Most complex lives on Earth - such as plants, animals, and even humans - are not able to survive at temperatures above 50 degree Celsius.

The discovery was made by the European HARPS team led by Xavier Bonfils from the UJF-Grenoble/CNRS-INSU, Institut de Plane tologie et d`Astrophysique of Grenoble, France.

Along with their latest discovery the team has also found a a larger planet, Gliese 163b, orbiting the star much closer with 9 day period, the report said.

They also announced that an additional third, but unconfirmed planet, might be orbiting the star much farther away.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 13:33

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