Multiple Earth-like planets discovered

Overhead view of part of earth overlooking other galaxies, one with a very bright star.
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With the recent discovery of two new Earth-like planets, researchers believe there are at least seven in nearby planetary systems.

“Nature seems bent on showing us that Earth-like planets are very common,” said Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias researcher Alejandro Suárez Mascareño, according to a Dec. 15 press release from the institution. He is one of the authors who contributed to a study accepted for publication in the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal.

According to the press release, the two newly-discovered Earth-like planets (GJ 1002b and GJ 1002c) orbit the star GJ 1002. This red dwarf star is less than 16 light years from our own solar system and has barley one eighth the mass of our sun.

“It is quite a cool, faint star. This means that its habitability zone is very close to the star,” explained Vera María Passegger, a co-author of the study.

Both of the planets have masses similar to Earth and, like our planet, they are in the habitability zone of their star. GJ 1002b is closer to the star and takes around 10 days to complete an orbit around it. GJ 1002c is farther away and needs a little over 21 days to complete an orbit.

Researchers used two instruments, ESPRESSO and CARMENES, to discover the planets. GJ 1002 was observed by CARMENES between 2017 and 2019, and by ESPRESSO between 2019 and 2021.

“Either of the two groups would have had many difficulties if they had tackled this work independently. Jointly we have been able to get much further than we would have done acting independently,” said Suárez Mascareño.

Earlier this year, a team of international scientists found evidence that suggests that there may be two other planets 100 light-years from Earth suitable for human life. Those scientists called the planets, LP 890-9b and LP 890-9c, “super-Earth” planets because they are both larger than our planet.

Since the planets discovered by the IAC team are so close to our solar system, researchers believe that the atmosphere on them may be studied.

“The future ANDES spectrograph for the ELT telescope at ESO in which the IAC is participating, could study the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere of GJ 1002c,” said Jonay I. González Hernández, another co-author of the study.

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