Saturday, May 18, 2013
By Latin Times Staff Writer, Dec 20, 2012 04:19 PM EST
(PHOTO CREDIT: Flickr) Due to its close proximity to Earth and sun-like qualities, the star Tau Ceti has long been featured prominently in science fiction.
Scientists have discovered a sun-like star not far from our galaxy that may host five planets, including one that may be capable of sustaining life, according to a new study, Space.com reports.
The potential five planets orbit around a star called Tau Ceti, which is just a stone's throw away from Earth in cosmic terms - about 12 light years. One of those newfound alien planets appears to be within Tau Ceti's "habitable zone" as well, which is the amount of distance a planet can be from a star for water to still exist on its surface.
Like Us on Facebook
The potential planet's minimum mass is just 4.3 times that of Earth, which would make it smallest found yet in the habitable zone sun-like star if it's confirmed, space.com reported. According to researchers, the Earth-like planet, which completes an orbit of Tau Ceti every 168 days, isn't likely a rocky planet.
Due to its close proximity to Earth and sun-like qualities, Tau Ceti has long been featured prominently in science fiction, Space.com notes. The star is slightly smaller and less bright than our sun, sits in the constellation Cetus (the whale), and can be seen with the naked eye in the night sky.
While past searches for exoplanets near Tau Ceti had produced no findings, the new study was able to find the five possible planetary signals within a mess of space noise.
According to researchers the five planets will not become official discoveries until further analysis or observations confirm them, which isn't necessarily a sure thing.
"I am very confident that the three shortest periodicities are really there, but I cannot be that sure whether they are of planetary origin or some artifacts of insufficient noise modeling or stellar activity and/or magnetic cycles at this stage," Tuomi said, referring to the potential planets with orbital periods of 14, 35 and 94 days (compared to 168 days for the habitable zone candidate and 640 days for the most distantly orbiting world).
"The situation is even worse for the possible habitable zone candidate, because the very existence of that signal is uncertain, yet according to our detection criteria the signal is there and we cannot rule out the possibility that it indeed is of planetary origin," he added. "But we don't know what else it could be, either."
"This discovery is in keeping with our emerging view that virtually every star has planets, and that the galaxy must have many such potentially habitable Earth-sized planets," study co-author Steve Vogt, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a statement. "They are everywhere, even right next door."