Feeds

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

Orbits Tau Ceti, a star in our night sky

New hybrid storage solutions

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
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Square Kilometre Array reveals its 1.6TB-a-day storage and network rigs
Boolardy Engineering Test Array - aka BETA - is about to come out of Beta
LOHAN invites ENTIRE REG READERSHIP to New Mexico shindig
Well, those of you who back our Kickstarter tin-rattling...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
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.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.