The European Southern Observatory has found a planet sitting right in the middle of the “Goldilocks zone.” Planet Gliese 667Cc isn’t too far away from its star, which would make it to cold for life, and it isn’t too close, which would make it to hot. Researchers have analyzed the new data and believe that the planet sits in the “habitable zone” and could support life.
Steven Vogt, an astronomer from the University of California, said:
“It’s the Holy Grail of exo-planet research to find a planet orbiting around a star at the right distance so it´s not too close where it would lose all its water and not too far where it would freeze… It’s right there in the habitable zone – there’s no question or discussion about it. It is not on the edge. It is right in there.”
The Telegraph reports that Gliese 667Cc orbits a red dwarf star that is about 22 light years away from earth. Red dwarf stars are usually surrounded by planets called gas giants, but researchers say that Gliese 667Cc is a solid planet with more than four times the mass of Earth.
Researchers at the University Göttingen and University of California believe that the “holy grail” of planets receives about the same amount of energy from its star than the earth gets from the sun. This means that the temperature on Gliese 667Cc could be similar to the temperature on earth.
Astronomers have found more than 760 exoplanets since 1995, but only four are believed to be in the habitable zone. Guillem Anglada-Escudé, of University Göttingen, Germany, said that astronomers are getting a better look at what’s beyond our solar system due to modern technology like the High Accuracy Radial Planetary Searcher (HARPS) telescope. Anglada-Escude said:
“With the advent of new generation of instruments, researchers will be able to survey many dwarf stars for similar planets and eventually look for spectroscopic signatures of life in one of these worlds.”
[Image Credit: PHL @ UPR Arecibo]