However, in "only" 79, 000 years, this will all change as Ross 128 is moving towards us. And it could support life.
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-like planet in the same solar system where "alien signals" were detected earlier this year. So why is Ross 128 b unique - apart from its rather human-sounding name? Ross 128, the star in the constellation Virgo that this new exoplanet orbits, on the other hand, has been called inactive or quiet because it does not gush out similar amounts of radiation.
Due to their plentiful nature and the fact that other exoplanets have been found around these types of stars, red dwarfs are being studied and observed with increasing frequency in the hopes of finding more exoplanets.
Ross 128b was found with the help of ESO's High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument, that is attached to ESO's 3.6 metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, and although the circumstances look favourable, scientists involved in the project are uncertain as to whether the planet lies inside, outside, or on the edge of the habitable zone where liquid water may exist on a planet's surface. This may help Ross 128 b's chances of being the closest known "comfortable abode for possible life".
"This discovery is based on more than a decade of HARPS intensive monitoring together with state-of-the-art data reduction and analysis techniques". "The special properties of this system means that we are contributing our bit on the search of a Earth 2.0". It is estimated that Ross 128 b's surface temperature is close to Earth's, because the luminosity of the star and the planet's distance from it suggest the Earth-like world doesn't get hit with much more energy than our own planet does.
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Astronomers have spotted a roughly Earth-mass world circling the small, dim star Ross 128, which lies just 11 light-years from the sun. Scientists found that the exoplanet orbits Ross 128 around 20 times closer than the Earth orbits the Sun.
But the reason astronomers are excited about Ross 128 b is because the star is "quiet".
The problem with M dwarfs is that many, such as Trappist-1 and Proxima Centauri, have a nasty habit of sending out big flares that could erode the atmospheres of orbiting planets.
There's still uncertainty about whether Ross 128 b is within the habitable zone, but scientists say that with temperatures of between -60 and +20°C, it can be considered temperate. "They list all the close encounters with other stars, and because of the relative movements of stars and the Sun, it results that Ross 128 will be our closest star". That may sound like a long time, but in a universe that is billions of years old, it's merely a cosmic moment.
"I plan to continue searching for new worlds, specially around Ross 128 because it is likely that there are more planets", Astudillo-Defru said.
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