Feeds

Earth-like planets abound in red dwarf systems

Slow-burning stars may host civilizations far more advanced than our own

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The nearest Earth-like planet that could support liquid water may be much closer than first believed, according to new research by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

"We thought we would have to search vast distances to find an Earth-like planet," said Harvard astronomer and lead author Courtney Dressing in a statement. "Now we realize another Earth is probably in our own backyard, waiting to be spotted."

The team analyzed data from NASA's Kepler space telescope to look at red dwarf stars, slow-growing solar furnaces that make up around three-quarters of the stars in our galaxy. These have been considered poor candidates for Earth-like planets, but the team found 6 per cent of red dwarfs could harbor conditions for life as we know it.

With at least 75 billion available red dwarfs, that adds up to a lot of planets suitable for life. And based on this simple survey, Dressing found 95 suitable planets, three of which being a similar size to Earth and warm enough for liquid water, with the nearest just 13 light years away.

Because red dwarfs are long-lived, slow-burning stars, some of the Earth-like planets found could be significantly older than our own. If the pattern of life has taken a similar course, this could lead to civilizations much more advanced than our own. "We might find an Earth that's 10 billion years old," speculated coauthor David Charbonneau.

But there's a world of difference (pun unintended) between finding a planet that's well-positioned to support humanity and analysis of its atmosphere to find out if it really could. It may be unlikely that we'll find planets out there that could support unaided humans, but given a closer examination by instruments such as the Giant Magellan Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope, who knows? ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
Major cyber attack hits Norwegian oil industry
Statoil, the gas giant behind the Scandie social miracle, targeted
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
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.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
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?