An Earth-sized exoplanet is only 11 light-years away from us, unlike other potentially “life-supporting” planets that are thousands of light-years away. European scientists say that they have discovered a planet orbiting a nearby star, Ross 128. The planet has been named Ross 128 b, and it has a predicted temperature range that could be suitable for the existence of liquid water on its surface. At the moment, after Proxima Centauri b, which is 4.25 light-years away from Earth, Ross 128 b is the second-closest such world to Earth.

Earth-Sized Exoplanet
Image source: YouTube Video Screenshot

The lead author of the paper that describes the Earth-sized exoplanet, Xavier Bonfils, told planetary.org via email that “Ross 128 b has a mass about 1.35 times that of Earth.”

“We are thus confident that Ross 128 b is a rocky planet,” he wrote.

Compared to Proxima Centauri, Ross 128 is believed to be a “quiet” planet, which means that it emits less radiation that could harm life. This is not the only interesting thing about the discovered Ross 128 b. Sometime earlier, Ross 128 made headlines suggesting that it was sending out a semi-repeating radio signal. The signal was later said to be a “geostationary satellite” in Earth’s orbit, although, after today’s announcement of the discovery, Ross 128 is considered to be a solar system that could potentially support life, planetary.org noted.

However, according to the director of the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Andrew Siemion wrote planetary.org in an email, “We are considering additional follow-up in light of the new discovery at radio and optical wavelengths. Nearby exoplanets are particularly exciting from a SETI perspective, as they permit us to search for and potentially detect much weaker signals than from more distant targets.”

How was the earth-sized exoplanet discovered?

The Ross 128 has been found with HARPS, the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher. HARPS is attached to a 3.6-meter telescope at Chile’s La Silla Observatory, and it works by splitting starlight into wavelength components. Exoplanets, such as Ross 128 b, pulls on their main stars as they orbit them, which gives their stars a wobble. As those wobbles shift the stars’ spectrums, HARPS can see the planets’ presence. However, in this case, it took a decade of HARPS data to find Ross 128 b.

Being 11 light-years away, Ross 128 b is a relatively neighboring planet. But, what’s interesting is that the star is approaching us and will be the closest to our sun in about 79,000 years when it overtakes Proxima Centaury “as the closest sun to ours.”

Could Ross 128 b be a planet that could contain life, something we have been searching for for so long?