Some 22 light years away from Earth lies planet GJ667Cc, a super-Earth like planet 4.5 times the mass of Earth orbiting within a star’s “habitable zone,” where the temperature is just right for liquid water to exist on the planet’s surface.
The newest find is courtesy of astronomers Steven Vogt and Eugenio Rivera from the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC), led by Guillem Anglada-Escudé and Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution for Science. The researchers used data from the European Southern Observatory and analyzed it with a new data-analysis method, incorporating measurements from the WM Keck Observatory’s High Resolution Echelle Spectrograph and the new Carnegie Planet Finder Spectrograph at the Magellan II Telescope. Initial observations show promising results.
The planet under the telescope here, ‘GJ667Cc’, has a regular orbital period of 28 days. Its temperature is in the range where water will exist in liquid form and orbits around an M-class dwarf star which sits in the star system called GJ667C. Two more stars (orange K dwarfs) are present in the system which falls under an area with an environment which the scientists in the Kepler mission never expected to find Earth-like planets.
And GJ667Cc is not the only possible candidate from the system. The planet sits between two additional planets that may also be Earth candidates. GJ667Cc, receives light in the tune of around 90 percent of what Earth gets. The energy received is mostly infrared and so the planet absorbs most of the heat, pointing at chances of it being a warm and cosy place (see image below). But more observations have to be conducted to get a conclusive picture before future missions can be made.
The discovery has reinforced the fact that many Earth-like planets exist in our galaxy and will perhaps convince skeptical scientists and religious leaders that we are not the only “intelligent life” out there. “The detection of this planet, this nearby and this soon, implies that our galaxy must be teeming with billions of potentially habitable rocky planets,” says Vogt of UCSC.