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Astronomers Discover Two Super-Earths Orbiting a Star 11 Light-Years Away

Astronomers have discovered two super-Earths around a star Gilese 887 that is approximately 11 light-years away from our planet. The two exoplanets – a term used for planets outside our solar system – are called Gilese 887b and Gilese 887c, and the scientists claim that they could ‘potentially host life’. For those unaware, super-Earths are planets that have mass higher than Earth but substantially lower than Neptune and Uranus. Astronomers, led by Sandra Jeffers from University of Gottingen in Germany, have published a new study on these exoplanets in the Science journal.

This journal details the new discovery of these two super-Earths orbiting the brightest red-dwarf star GJ 887. This discovery is a huge leap in the quest to figure out if we are alone in the universe. Possibly the most exciting thing about these two new super-Earths is they lie close to the red dwarf’s habitable zone, where water can exist in liquid form, and could be rocky worlds just like Earth and Mars. The scientists note that these new planets could have thicker atmospheres than the Earth, and potentially host life.

Based on their findings, the astronomers claim that the two exoplanets have short orbits of just 9.3 and 21.8 days. This indicates that the two super-Earths are moving rapidly, much faster, even than Mercury. Scientists also estimate the temperature of Gliese 887c to be around 70 degree Celsius.

“These planets will provide the best possibilities for more detailed studies, including the search for life outside our Solar System,” Jeffers said.

While Gilese 887 star is 11 light-years away, it is still one of the closest to our solar system. It is also claimed to be much dimmer than the Sun, and about half its size. The scientists claim that the habitable zone is much closer to Gilese 887 than Earth’s distance from the Sun. Furthermore, it has few starspots, making it likely for the newly discovered planets to retain the atmosphere.

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Tasneem Akolawala

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