Nearby planet Ross 128 b is all the rage among astronomers. Scientists have recently discovered it not far from our solar system, and they're already speculating there's a high probability it could sustain life. According to the European Southern Observatory (ESO), this Earth-sized exoplanet is the "closest temperate world" ever detected and has now become a primary candidate in the search for alien life.
The discovery belongs to a team of astronomers led by Xavier Bonfils, from the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble and the University of Grenoble Alpes, France. The researchers stumbled upon planet Ross 128 b after more than a decade's worth of working with ESO's "unique planet-finding instrument" — the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), stationed at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.
HARPS uncovered that Ross 128 b sits right on our cosmic doorstep. Lying a mere 11 light-years away, it's the second closest exoplanet to Earth, after Proxima b. Just like Proxima b, which orbits the red dwarf Proxima Centauri (the closest star to our Sun, found only 4.25 light-years away), the newly-discovered exoplanet also revolves around a red dwarf star, called Ross 128. Yet, the two red dwarfs are nothing alike.
Its parent star received its fair share of public attention about four months ago, when a report describing "peculiar" radio signals emanating from Ross 128 sparked talk that we may not be alone in the universe. However, follow-up inquiries pointed to an Earth-orbiting satellite, and not an alien civilization, as the source of the mysterious signals.
Still, Ross 128 continues to pique astronomers' interest, and here's why. Unlike the virulent Proxima Centauri, which blasts Proxima b with harmful ultraviolet and X-ray radiation, Ross 128 is significantly less active. This adds to the conjecture that the newfound planet orbiting it might harbor life.