Scientists have found a planet – roughly 4.5 times the mass of earth – orbiting a star 22 light years away, and it’s located right in the middle of its habitable zone. This means that it’s in a region where liquid water – and thus life, as we currently understand it – can exist.
The researchers estimate that the planet, called GJ 667Cc, is at least 4.5 times as massive as Earth, which makes it a so-called super-Earth. It takes roughly 28 days to make one orbital lap around its parent star, which is located a mere 22 light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Scorpius (the Scorpion).
Interestingly enough, the host star, GJ 667C, is a member of a triple-star system. GJ 667C is an M-class dwarf star that is about a third of the mass of the sun, and while it is faint, it can be seen by ground-based telescopes, Vogt said.
“Statistics tell us we shouldn’t have found something this quickly this soon unless there’s a lot of them out there,” Vogt said. “This tells us there must be an awful lot of these planets out there. It was almost too easy to find, and it happened too quickly.”
There’s always a chance that we got lucky, and a statistically improbable planetary system just happens to be right in our back yard. But, if we are to assume for the time being that such things represent the norm, then we might have a much greater chance of not only finding earth like planets, but life we can recognize. God help them.
In light of that possibility, I honestly hope that our technology prevents us from getting too far beyond the reaches of our own star system for at least another century or two. (And this from a guy who fully embraces the spirit of discovery and hopes to walk on the surface of another planet before he dies.) For the sake of any other life that may exist in our neck of the woods, the least I feel we can do is wait until we get our collective shit together. That way we stand a better chance of proving to whoever or whatever else may be watching – and to ourselves – that we can both take care of the planet from which we began, and not pose a clear and present danger to everyone . I mean, it’s only common courtesy.
To keep track of the running tally: 61 confirmed planets discovered by Kepler to date!