'Super Earth' Spotted, Might Support Life

GG 667Cc orbits star 22 light years away

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 3, 2012 12:21 AM CST | Updated Feb 3, 2012 4:03 AM CST

(Newser) – A planet in a triple-star system a relatively close 22 light years away is the best candidate yet for supporting life, researchers say. The rocky planet, GJ 667Cc, is around 4.5 times the size of Earth and orbits in the middle of the "Goldilocks zone" where water can remain stable without boiling or freezing, the Christian Science Monitor reports. It orbits a red dwarf star once every 28 days, and appears to absorb as much light and energy from its sun as Earth does.

"If it has an atmosphere, it's probably reddish all the time, because the star is really red," says one of the astronomers who spotted the planet. "It would be like being evening all the time." The system's binary stars in the distance would be "very prominent in the sky, and it would be an exotic thing," he adds. More research is planned to determine the nature of GJ 66vCc's atmosphere and to determine if it's stuck with one side facing its sun and one side facing away, which would significantly diminish the chances of life existing there.

An artist's impression of GJ 667Cc.
An artist's impression of GJ 667Cc.   (Carnegie/UCSC)
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