Artistic representation of Tau Ceti e and Tau Cet
(Photo : Photo : Planetary Habitability Laboratory @ UPR Arecibo, 2012))
An international team of astronomers led by Mikko Toumi from the University of Hertfordshire has discovered five new planets just 12 light years away. Additionally, the discovery implies that one or two of those planets could be conducive to life.
The five planets are rotating around the star Tau Ceti which is visible in the night sky and is very similar to our sun. The astronomers reportedly combined more than 6,000 observations from three telescopes in Hawaii, Chile, and Australia to detect the five new planets. They estimate that the planets are approximately two to six times the mass of earth and one them, which is five times the mass of earth, is found within an habitable zone know as the "Goldilocks zone." The "Goldilocks" zone is neither too hot or cold to allow liquid surface water which could support life on this explanet.
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"This discovery is in keeping with our emerging view that virtually every star has planets, and that the galaxy must have many potentially habitable planets," said Steven Vogt, the University of California, Santa Cruz astronomer on the international team.
Over 800 planets have been discovered orbiting other stars and according to the Daily Mail seven of these could potentially support life. They include the Gliese 581d, HD 85512b, Kepler 22b, Gliese 667Cc, Gliese 581g, Gliese 163c, and HD 40307g. These potentially habitable exoplanets are called superterrans and are substantially larger than Earth. They have all been cataloged in the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog (HEC), a complex computer program created to measure the suitability for life of these emerging galaxies and exoplanets. The program combines data from numerous exoplanet databases, including the Extrasolar Planet Encyclopedia and NASA Exoplanet Archive, and receives most of the data of new discoveries directly from the research teams. The information is then analyzed and incorporated into the database once it is ready for public announcement.
[CORRECTION] The headline has since been changed to 'Potentially Habitable' after the title was found to be misleading.