Feeds

Boffins spot planet that could support life... just 12 light years away

Orbits Tau Ceti, a star in our night sky

Remote control for virtualized desktops

An international team of astroboffins have discovered that the nearest single Sun-like star has one planet orbiting in the sweet spot for potential alien life.

Image generated by Stellarium software showing Tau Ceti in the constellation of Cetus on from Hatfield, UK

Tau Ceti, which is just 12 light years away and can be seen with the naked eye in the night sky, has five planets in orbit around it, with one lying in the habitable zone.

The potentially life-supporting world has a mass around five times the size of Earth, making it the smallest planet found in the habitable zone of any Sun-like star. The other four planets are between twice and six times the mass of Earth.

"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. They are everywhere, even right next door!" said Steve Vogt of the University of California Santa Cruz.

Artist’s impression of the Tau Ceti system

"We are now beginning to understand that Nature seems to overwhelmingly prefer systems that have a multiple planets with orbits of less than one hundred days. This is quite unlike our own solar system where there is nothing with an orbit inside that of Mercury. So our solar system is, in some sense, a bit of a freak and not the most typical kind of system that Nature cooks up."

Tau Ceti's worlds were spotted by astronomers from the UK, Chile, the US and Australia when they sifted through more than 6,000 observations from three different instruments using improved "noise-modelling" techniques to spot the wobble in the star caused by the gravitational tug of planets.

"Tau Ceti is one of our nearest cosmic neighbours and so bright that we may be able to study the atmospheres of these planets in the not too distant future," said James Jenkins of Universidad de Chile, who is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire.

"Planetary systems found around nearby stars close to our Sun indicate that these systems are common in our Milky Way galaxy."

So far, noise modelling and other techniques have mostly found high mass planets, since smaller worlds are harder to detect.

The full study, to be published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, can be found here (PDF). ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rockin' boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.