Astronomers found two new exoplanets that might have the right conditions to harbor life. More importantly, they are located just 12.5 light-years away.
An international team led by the University of Göttingen in Germany recently announced the discovery of the Earthlike planets in orbit around Teegarden's star. In the press release, the astronomers stated that both worlds resemble the inner planets of the solar system.
"They are only slightly heavier than Earth and are located in the so-called habitable zone, where water can be present in liquid form," said Mathia Zechmeister from the Institute for Astrophysics at the University of Göttingen. Zechmeister is the lead author of the study, which is set to be published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.
One Of The Sun's Neighboring Stars
Teegarden's star, a faint red dwarf lighter and dimmer than the sun, is located in the constellation of Aries. It is the third closest stellar neighbor to the Sun, slightly farther away than the Alpha Centauri system and Barnard's star.
Despite its proximity, the red dwarf was only discovered in 2003.
Normally, scientists find exoplanets by looking for temporary dips of light of distant stars, which means that a world is in orbit. However, for Teegarden's star, the team went with a different approach.
Finding Exoplanets Around Teegarden Star
They used the CARMENES instrument located at the Calar Alto Observatory in Spain, which look for changes in the star's velocity, to study Teegarden's star. After three years, the team detected the wobbles produced by Teegarden b and Teegarden c.
Both planets might have habitable conditions, but Teegarden b has a 60 percent chance of having temperate surface environment. The astronomers estimated that the temperature in the newly discovered world sits somewhere between 0 and 50 degrees Celsius.
Meanwhile, Teegarden c, which is closer to the edge of the star's habitable zone, is probably more similar to Mars. They said that temperature on the surface might be at -47 degrees Celsius.
Teegarden b and Teegarden c were added to the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog. Teegarden b scored the highest Earth Similarity Index (which considers factors such as mass, exposure to solar radiation, etc.) ever.
Teegarden b and Teegarden c are in a unique position to view the planets within the solar system. If intelligent life exists in either world, they can observe Earth orbiting the sun through the transit method.
The team added that the newly discovered exoplanets might be parts of a larger system.
"Many stars are apparently surrounded by systems with several planets," stated Stefan Dreizler, a professor at the University of Göttingen and a co-author of the study. "This is a great success for the Carmenes project, which was specifically designed to search for planets around the lightest stars."