Scientist Find Multiple Planet System Orbiting Gliese 887

An artist’s impression of the multiplanetary system of super Earths orbiting the nearby red dwarf star Lacaille 9352. Image credit Mark Garlick

An artist’s impression of the multiplanetary system of super Earths orbiting the nearby red dwarf star Lacaille 9352. Image credit Mark Garlick

Called GJ 887b and GJ 887c, the planets "could be rocky worlds" like Earth but are very likely to be "tidally locked" to their star meaning one side will always face the star and be in perpetual daytime while the other always night.

Experts have been looking for planets around the star for about 20 years, but apart from a weak signal that has piqued their curiosity, they have been unable to find anything else. Both of them are close to the habitable zone of the system, which is actually closer to the star compared to the zone where the Earth is because Gliese 887 is smaller and dimmer than the Sun.

Additionally, the researchers also found that the brightness from the red dwarf star is nearly constant, making it easier for space telescopes to look for the atmospheres on the super-Earths.

The research, which was published in Science, holds a lot of promise, but we don't yet possess the technology to view these Earth-alikes in greater detail.

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Researchers, in their study, used observations from HARPS spectrograph at the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

Apart from discovering the nearby super-Earths, the researchers also found that Gliese 887 has very few sunspots, which means that it is not as active as the Sun and would therefore not sweep away the super-Earths' atmospheres.

GJ 887b, meanwhile, is much closer to the star, with an orbital period of 9.3 days. What is even more interesting is that these planets have a structure similar to that of our planet and are capable of hosting extraterrestrial life. That said, the Gliese 887c measurements suggest a surface temperature of 158 degrees Fahrenheit or 70 degrees Celsius.

A team of astronomers from the RedDots project has discovered two super-Earths and a candidate planet orbiting the nearby 4.57-billion-year-old red dwarf star Lacaille 9352. More active stars are prone to risky flares, which could easily destroy a planet's atmosphere.

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"So given the star is relatively inactive the newly discovered planets could be expected to retain their atmospheres". RedDots discovered two more interesting facts about Gliese 887, which turn out to be good news not only for the newly discovered planets but also for astronomers. This third possible super-Earth is farther from the star than the other two, and takes 50 days to complete an orbit.

"These planets will provide the best possibilities for more detailed studies, including the search for life outside our Solar System", averred Dr Sandra Jeffers, lead author of the study. But most of those planets orbit distant and faint stars, ' he said.

At 10.7 light-years away, Lacaille 9352 is the 12th closest star system to the Sun.

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