One Step Closer to Finding Extraterrestrial Life
The hunt for extraterrestrial life is on the rise. With many interested organizations and individuals spending millions to fund Earth-Like hunting projects, many of them coming very close.
One of which is the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. Their researchers recently observed the passing of an exoplanet similar in composition to Earth named “K2-3d”. This was accomplished using what they call a “MuSCAT” instrument at the Okayama Astrophysical Observatory.
A transit is a phenomenon in which a planet passes in front of its parent star, blocking a small amount of light from the star, like a shadow of the planet. While transits have previously been observed for thousands of other exo-planets, K2-3d is important because there is a possibility that it might harbour extraterrestrial life. -NOAJ
K2-3D is a confirmed massive solid exoplanet orbiting a red dwarf star K2-3 announced January 2015. It is dubbed as a “Super Earth” where its mass and radius are bigger than Earth’s. It is approximately located 137 light years away from Earth and is considered to be orbiting on the edge of the inner habitable zone. However, many researchers believe that the planet is tidally locked to its star. Meaning, one side faces towards its star, engulfed in a blanket of scorching heat; while the other side is facing pure darkness, with frigid temperatures. If this is the case, then this planet may not be so habitable after all.
We will see if it is habitable as the new James Webb Telescope will be able to track the new planet for life. The James Webb Space Telescope is estimated to be completed by 2018.
Other Potentially Habitable Exoplanet Discoveries
So far there has been a total of 44 potentially habitable exoplanets discovered with 15 being Earth-size(Terran) and 29 being Super-Earth size (Superterran).
Recent Discovery By NASA
As of August 2016, an Earth-like planet was discovered by astronomers.
The exoplanet is at a distance from its star that allows temperatures mild enough for liquid water to pool on its surface.
The new planet circles Proxima Centauri. Also known to science fiction fans as Alpha Centauri. Just over 4 light-years away, Proxima is the closest star to Earth, besides our own sun.
The group of astronomers also mentioned that the planet, dubbed Proxima b, is at least 1.3 times the mass of Earth. It orbits its star far more closely than Mercury orbits our sun. Taking only 11 days to complete a single orbit — a “year” on Proxima b.