The CARMENES survey team, a huge group of international astronomers, is searching for exoplanets near distant stars' habitable zones. They may have just discovered the most Earth-like planet out there.
Exoplanet discoveries happen all the time — there are estimated to be hundreds of billions of planets throughout the universe.
However, this particular planet has drawn attention for just how much it may resemble Earth.
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The 24th closest star
The newfound exoplanet was found orbiting Teegarden's star, a relatively close — 12 light years — and relatively quiet ultra-cool star. It is the 24th closest star to the Sun.
Finding such potentially inhabitable planets provides hints as to where we might find extraterrestrial life. However, while it is an exciting finding, it doesn't necessarily mean that people could survive there.
The researchers actually found two planets orbiting around Teegarden's star — they are named Teegarden b and Teegarden c.
Teegarden b is the one that most resembles Earth. According to the published paper, the planet has the highest Earth Similarity Index of any planet yet discovered — the planet scored a 0.94, with a 1.0 indicating a perfect Earth replica.
They do also highlight the fact that the index "does not take into account the stellar spectral energy distribution and the resulting planetary atmospheric composition, which very likely have an effect on habitability."
The two planets were spotted from Spain's Calar Alto Observatory.
Teegarden's star itself is actually one-tenth the size of the Sun, though the planets do orbit close enough (they are in the habitable zone) to have the potential to sustain a temperate environment similar to that on Earth, the researchers claim.
Still more to learn
The researchers have discovered that Teegarden b and c are in the star's habitable zone, but there is still more to learn. For example, they do not yet know the size of the planets.
“We are a bit hampered in what we can infer about these planets because we don’t know their radii,” Planetary Science Institute scientist Amy Barr Mlinar told Gizmodo.
“But this is a very exciting find, and I hope we will get more observations of this system in the future.”
More observation and analysis could help us find out whether Teegarden b is inhabitable for future settlers.