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Astronomers Spot A Possibly-Habitable Planet 12 Light-Years Away

Theoretically, if a planet receives nearly the same amount of sunlight as Earth does, and contains water, there is a possibility of life on it. Astronomers are banking on this hope as they study a planet near the Tau Ceti star which nearly fulfills these prerequisites.

Tau Ceti

Nearly one in 25 stars is as bright as our Sun. Tau Ceti is a star which boasts this trait and moreover, is a single star just like Sun, without any other star within close proximity. This has naturally perked up the interest of the astronomers.

The star has been studied for many decades and its Sun-like trait has left many hopeful that a planet orbiting it could contain life. Recently, Mikko Tuomi, an astronomer hailing from the University of Hertfordshire, observed Tau Ceti from different locations in a number of countries.

The observations were an attempt to somehow discern the motion of the star, the gravitational pull exerted on it and the probable number of planets orbiting it. According to Tuomi’s observations, there are possibly five planets orbiting Tau Ceti of which only one may be getting the right amount of heat to have life-friendly circumstances.

The heat emitted by Tau Ceti is far less than that our Sun emits. Considering this as well as the distance of the planets from Tau Ceti, astronomers surmise that the first three planets surrounding it are too hot to bear life. The fifth planet is too far away to be warm enough yet the fourth planet, dubbed planet ‘e’, may be able to sustain life. This planet e is three times as large as Earth.

Whereas this discovery is certainly very interesting, many contemporaries remain highly skeptical of it. The chief objection that has been cited by them is that the astronomers have interpreted noisy signals to reach these conclusions and that the astronomical community, at large, won’t be ready to accept such results.

One does hope that methods are devised to verify the measurements made by Tuomi and his team.

Courtesy: Science Mag

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