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Exoplanet discoveries include two super-Earths that could support life

Two new exoplanets have been discovered outside of our galaxy that have the potential to support life. 

A new study published on January 8 in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series reports that GJ180 d and GJ229A c are “super-Earths” and are located 19 light-years and 39 light-years from Earth, respectively, which in space terms, is relatively close to our galaxy. The exoplanets were discovered by a team led by Carnegie Institution of Washington scientists, Fabo Feng and Paul Butler. 

Robin Dienel

The exoplanets orbit two red dwarf stars, which are cooler and dimmer than our sun, meaning that liquid could possibly be stable on their surfaces. The planets are located in a “habitable zone,” which is the region around a star in which liquid water could potentially pool on the surface of a rocky planet.

GJ180 d, in particular, is especially promising to scientists since it is not tidally locked. The exoplanet is slightly bigger than Earth and orbits its red dwarf far enough to support life. The planet is 7.5 times our planet’s mass and has an orbital period of 106 days. 

“GJ180 d is the nearest temperate super-Earth to us that is not tidally locked to its star, which probably boosts its likelihood of being able to host and sustain life,” Feng said in a press release about the study.

The GJ229A c exoplanet also has the potential to be habitual due to its proximity to its dwarf star. The planet is about 7.9 times Earth’s mass with 122 orbital days. 

“Our discovery adds to the list of planets that can potentially be directly imaged by the next generation of telescopes,” Feng added.  “Ultimately, we are working toward the goal of being able to determine if planets orbiting nearby stars host life.”

NASA confirmed the existence of more than 4,000 planets outside our solar system. The sheer number of that is impressive, but even more so if you take into consideration that before 1992, we couldn’t find any exoplanets. 

Digital Trends reached out to NASA for further information on the GJ180 d and GJ229A c exoplanets and their significance in space research. We will update this story if we hear back.

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