First there was Proxima b, the Earth-sized planet orbiting the closest star to us, Proxima Centauri. Then came the seven Earth-sized worlds orbiting TRAPPIST-1, a star 39 light-years away, three of which are in the habitable zone. Now we welcome a new tantalizing exoplanet to the group, the second closest we know of, also Earth-sized and temperate, orbiting a calm red dwarf star: Ross 128 b.
Ross 128 is an old, inactive red dwarf star that sits 11 light-years away. Proxima Centauri is only 4.2 light-years away. However, Ross 128 is moving toward us, and it will become the closest star to the sun in just 79,000 years, towing the planet Ross 128 b along with it. Considering the oldest human remains are thought to be hundreds of thousands or even millions of years old, it's not crazy to think our species could still be roaming the Earth when Ross 128 b becomes the closest exoplanet to our home world.
Image - Sky - Dwarf - Star - Ross
This image shows the sky around the red dwarf star Ross 128 in the constellation of Virgo. Ross 128 appears at the center of the picture. Close inspection reveals that Ross 128 has a strange multiple appearance as this image was created from photographs taken over a more than forty year period by the Digitized Sky Survey 2, and the star, which is only 11 light-years from Earth, moved across the sky significantly during this time.
The new planet was discovered by an international team of astronomers using the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at the La Silla Observatory in the high desert of Chile. Unlike most exoplanet discoveries, Ross 128 b was not detected during a transit when the planet moves in front of the host star from our perspective, allowing astronomers to detect the reduction...
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