Earth-sized Exoplanet Reportedly Discovered Orbiting Red Dwarf in Habitable Zone

Posted on March 22, 2014

Discovery reports that astronomers are close to announcing the first Earth-sized planet in a habitable zone around its parent star. The planet has a radius 1.1 times as big as Earth's. It orbits around an M1 dwarf star (red dwarf star) that has not yet been named. Discovery says the planet is also believed to orbit within the habitable zone where temperatures are suitable for liquid surface water. There are at least five planets in the system. Details of this intriguing exoplanet have not yet been officially published, but were apparently mentioned at the recent Search for Life Beyond the Solar System conference.

The research was conducted by astronomer Thomas Barclay with NASA's Ames Research Center in California. He used data from the Kepler space telescope to locate the planet. Some astronomers, such as Kim Bott from the Australian Center for Astrobiology, tweeted a few details following the conference.

There are expected to be numerous planets in habitable zones around red dwarfs. Astronomers estimate that there are tens of billions planets located in habitable zones around red dwarfs just in the Milky Way alone. Astronomers also said in the same study from 2012 that red dwarfs may "bombard some of its super-Earth planets with X-rays or ultraviolet radiation," which would make them more hostile to life.

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