A group of astronomers involved in the planet search “Red Dots Campaign” has discovered two particularly interesting “super-Earths” around the relatively close star Gliese 887,media CNET reported. “Super-Earth” refers to planets with a mass greater than Earth, but much smaller than the “ice giant” Uranus and Neptune. These two exoplanets are known as Gliese 887b and Gliese 887c. They have very short orbits around their host star, whose position is only 11 light-years away from us.
Astronomer Sandra Jeffers of the University of G?ttingen in Germany was the lead author of a study of exoplanets published Thursday in the journal Science.
In addition to being so close to Earth, these “super-Earths” are exciting for several reasons. First, they are located near the habitable zone of the star, a region where liquid water may be present. Second, they could be rocky planets, like Earth and Mars.
Even better, Gliese 887b is fairly calm for the Red Dwarf. Although dimer than our sun, red dwarfs are notorious for spewing high-energy flares that tear apart the planet’s atmosphere. Gliese 887 is not very active. “This means that newly discovered planets may retain their atmospheres, or have a thicker atmosphere than Earth, and may potentially support life,” scientists at the University of G?ttingen said in a press release Thursday.
“These planets will provide the best possibilities for more detailed research, including the search for life outside the solar system,” Jeffers said.