Potential Habitable Exoplanet Discovered Orbiting Gliese 163, a Red Dwarf About 50 Light Years Away

Posted on September 2, 2012

Gliese 163 C

The Planetary Habitability Laboratory (PHL) at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo has announced the discovery of a potential habitable exoplanet orbiting Gliese 163, a red dwarf star 50 light years away from Earth. The Super-Earth, discovered by the European HARPS team, has a minimum mass of 6.9 Earth masses. It takes nearly 26 days for Gliese 163c to orbit its star. The astronomers say there is at least one other planet orbiting the star and possibly a third.

The astronomers say Gliese 163c could have a size ranging from 1.8 to 2.4 Earth radii. The variation depends on whether the planet is composed mostly of rock or water. The surface temperature could be around 60 degrees Celsius. The researchers say most complex life on Earth cannot survive at temperatures greater than 50 degrees Celsius, but survival at these temperatures is not an issue for some microbial life forms.

There have been six exoplanets (all discovered since 2007) that are potentially habitable. You can see a graphic of these six expolanets here.

Image: PHL @ UPR Arecibo

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