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New "Super-Earth" discovered only 22 light years away

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February 5, 2012

An artistic conception of  the triple star system where GJ667Cc resides (Image: Carnegie I...

An artistic conception of the triple star system where GJ667Cc resides (Image: Carnegie Institution for Science / Guillem Anglada-Escud)

An international team of scientists led by Professors Guillem Anglada-Escudé and Paul Butler from the Carnegie Institution for Science in the U.S. has discovered a potentially habitable Super-Earth that's "just" 22 light years away. The new Super-Earth has a mass that is 4.5 times larger than that of our planet and it revolves around its parent star in 28 days - a star that is significantly smaller than ours. This remarkable new discovery suggests that habitable planets could exist in a wider variety of environments than previously believed.

Of the 750-odd exoplanets (extrasolar planets) discovered so far only very few can be considered "Super-Earths." This newly discovered example called GJ667Cc is rocky like Earth and is rich in heavy chemical elements such as iron, carbon and silicon. Positioned at a distance from Earth of 22 light years, corresponding to a bit over 129 trillion miles (209 trillion km), the planet can be considered to be on Earth's doorstep. Furthermore the planet is expected to absorb about the same amount of energy from its star that our Earth absorbs from the Sun. Surface temperatures are therefore expected to be similar to Earth's and the existence of water is quite possible.

"This planet is the new best candidate to support liquid water and, perhaps, life as we know it," said Anglada-Escudé.

The team made the discovery using public data from the European Southern Observatory, incorporated with new measurements from the Keck Observatory's High Resolution Echelle Spectrograph and the new Carnegie Planet Finder Spectrograph at the Magellan II Telescope.

The team is also hopeful that within the triple star system where GJ667Cc resides, there may be the presence of a gas-giant planet and an additional super-Earth with an orbital period of 75 days. However, further observations are needed to confirm these two possibilities.

"With the advent of a new generation of instruments, researchers will be able to survey many M dwarf stars for similar planets and eventually look for spectroscopic signatures of life in one of these worlds," explained Anglada-Escudé.

Source: Carnegie Institution for Science

About the Author
Bridget Borgobello Bridget is an experienced freelance writer, presenter and performer with a keen eye for innovative design and a passion for green technology. Australian born, Bridget currently resides in Rome and when not scribbling for Gizmag, she spends her time developing new web series content and independent cinema.   All articles by Bridget Borgobello
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20 Comments

We need to go.

TogetherinParis
5th February, 2012 @ 07:26 pm PST

What's the surface acceleration?

Slowburn
5th February, 2012 @ 09:21 pm PST

How long will it take to get there with our present means of transportation?

Bigbrother Iswatchingu
6th February, 2012 @ 02:51 am PST

Well, I'm no astrophysicist, but using the volume of a sphere method to calculate earth's effective density (mass per volume), multiplying mass by 4.5 (as above) and using the reverse density method to get a radius size (thus assuming the same mass / volume due to assumed similar composition of minerals) , I get a radius for GJ667Cc as 3.2927E+12 (± 581 291 569 times earth's radius!). Punching that into the formula with the gravitational constant (G = 6.6726 x 10-11N-m2/kg2) with acceleration a = GM/r^2, I get a surface gravity of ± 1.65m/s^2. That'd make you 5.9 times lighter there than here (due to the large distance there from the planet core). Someone please help us right? :-D

Leon Van Rensburg
6th February, 2012 @ 03:57 am PST

We come in peace... to rape your planet, enslave you and take away everything that you hold dear, your history included. We leave for the next one once this one's ashes.

If there's life on that planet I hope they prep their nukes to deter the planet raping race that we are.

Chi Ken Sup
6th February, 2012 @ 05:20 am PST

*I don't want to live on this planet anymore*

Marco Pang
6th February, 2012 @ 06:17 am PST

so we see these systems with radio telescopes and they have multiple stars. Has anyone considered that from a distance, with a radio telescope, Earth will look like a second smaller star in this system? It's just radio noise that they are looking at. Earth makes a lot of radio noise. So what if those secondary stars are actually civilizations? Anyone think about that?

Artisteroi
6th February, 2012 @ 06:43 am PST

This may be the planet that all those Ashtar Command people may want to settle on and be transported to !!!!

Richie Suraci
6th February, 2012 @ 08:36 am PST

@Aristeroi

Radio emissions from stars tend to be largely static and have no discernable pattern. Emissions from Earth, (from man-made sources) TV & radio broadcasts, GPS signals etc. have a very distinguishable pattern. This pattern is used in ALL radio transmissions, it's binary and we'd know if a star (or planet) was transmitting in binary...

Take, for example, the Voyager 1 space probe, the farthest man-made object from Earth (at 119 Astronomical Units). It transmits radio waves encoded in binary to Earth and we have no trouble deciphering its signals; they don't look like a star's emissions at all. This is because space causes no distortion to radio signals. If a civilization was transmitting in binary, it would look very different from a star's emissions and we would definitely be able to detect it.

estillings
6th February, 2012 @ 10:40 am PST

@Leon

there's something seriously wrong with your calc. cube root of 4.5 is only 1.65, so it has 1.65 times earth radius, and as it turns out therefore 1.65 times the force of gravity at the surface.

Still a little uncomfortable I think.

Adrien
6th February, 2012 @ 10:51 am PST

@Leon:

Can't say I recognize some of the procedures you mentioned, but for a first approximation, I estimated the exoplanet's radius at 1.65 of Earth's (cube root of 4.5).

Plugging that back into the formula for surface acceleration, the ratio should be:

(Mx/Me)/(Rx/Re)^2 or 4.5/2.725, or (surprise!) 1.65g. All assuming, of course, a similar density profile, i.e. just "more of Earth"...

Dave

David Bell
6th February, 2012 @ 12:36 pm PST

who says a civilization relies on radio wave communication, maybe they have figured out the use of dark energy and move through the universe at will, and have learned to ignore the civilizations still contemplating the antiquated concept of space and time and using LOL radio waves to communicate

John Graven
6th February, 2012 @ 01:49 pm PST

John Graven that just made me damn near fall out my chair laughing, that is a joke for the intelligent types but it is true. Radio waves and cell phones are damaging to people yet we use them and put them close to our brains. Indeed we are being ignored, at least there is hope with people like us.

Michael Ellis
6th February, 2012 @ 07:22 pm PST

The only way we as a race can eventually get any significant distance around the universe, barring any major surprise findings in physics, is to develop fully autonomous artificial intelligence. Even then, I do not think "we" will carry on. I higly doubt it will ever be technically possible to transfer a living individual's person/psyche into an AI.

An AI would certainly reflect humanity but AIs would experience everything for themselves.

Nehemiah E. Spencer
6th February, 2012 @ 08:36 pm PST

In other words, for better or for worse, we, as delicate intricate biochemical machines, have very little chance of ever getting across such vast empty spaces... That planet, though "close" by astronomical proportions, is impossibly far away. 22 light years? Unreachable. Light travels about 186,000 miles every second. A light year is nearly impossible to fathom. That's 31,556,926 seconds at 186,000 miles each second. Think about cars... most cars are pretty old after traveling the distance light goes in one second. Now do that distance 31 MILLION times. Now do that whole 31 million chunk, twenty-two times over. Gag! Or think about it this way: the moon is just over one second travel time by light from earth. We thought it was big stuff to go to the moon!

Getting much farther than a few light seconds from earth is unfortunately probably impossible...unless somehow we as a race really can figure out how to turn our entire metabolism off for an indefinite period - without degradation (biochemically unrealistic) - and then after literally Milions of Trillions of years reactivate the (most certainly totally disintegrated) biochemical machine I.e. the human body, as the (now totally disintegrated) spacecraft nears its destination..... there are so many physical limitations that even an AI would have a hard time traversing such incredibly vast spaces.

Nehemiah E. Spencer
6th February, 2012 @ 09:00 pm PST

There seems to be no moon there. without romance ther is no worthwhile life; I wouldn't go there.

jochair
6th February, 2012 @ 09:00 pm PST

Star Gate everyone. We're doin' it. Who's coming with?

Roth Preston
7th February, 2012 @ 04:56 am PST

So we send our most sterile humans with a very robust solar sail and maybe they can send a signal to SETI in 2500 or so. Great!

(please don't examine my math...isn't math...but it doesn't matter.)

Billy Wayne Davis
8th February, 2012 @ 02:03 am PST

Anyone up for a little cryogenic jaunt?

Brian Hall
8th November, 2012 @ 04:08 pm PST

Wow, with technology today anything is possible. How exciting to find so many super Earth's. Like it's been said before, with so much space to think we are the only living creatures is pure ego. Why would all that space be there. On earth we have creatures living in subtemperatures, and in fields of methane gas. How could we possibly think, we are all that there is to life? But I agree with the previous statement, at the rate we are expending Earths resources, it would be in our best interest to have backup. But if we were smart, we could rectify our problem and save this world. And not look for another to use up as we are doing here.

Sandra Trull
28th April, 2013 @ 08:35 am PDT
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