The search for life


Scientists are researching whether Ross 128 could support life.

Sandy Hutchins, Staff Writer

A nearby planet called Ross 128 b is an earth sized planet that is close to our solar system. In the search for life this is the second closest planet like earth at 11 light-years away. The closest planet, Proxima b, may be closer but seems less hospitable. This planet was found in 2016 and orbits the star Proxima Centauri, which periodically releases charges of radiation that is harmful to life as we know it. The newly discovered planet also orbits a red dwarf similar to Proxima Centauri but this star is much less active.

This planet was discovered from the La Silla Observatory in Chile where co-discoverer Nicola Astudillo-Defru believes this planet is more hospitable the Proxima b because of the lack of solar radiation. However, they say that we can’t make conclusions about it until we know the composition and reflectivity of the clouds. This would determine if the planet is promising like Earth, or sterile like Venus. Lead author of the study describing the find Xavier Bonfils said, “Ross 128 is one of the quietest stars of our sample and, although it is a little further away from us (2.6x), it makes for an excellent alternative target.” The target being a new possible planet for life.

Ross 128 varies from Earth in a couple ways. It orbits its star 20 times closer than Earth does the sun but this is still as because its sun is much smaller and dimmer than ours, so it appears to have a similar surface temperature then us.

The search for planets that could support life and by extension life itself is ongoing. We hope to find a planet that is small and rocky just like our Earth. This is no easy task as most exoplanets we examine turn out to be Jupiter-like gas giants. Overall, the search will always continue until we find life; that is, if it’s even out there.