It could be the recurring plot of any science fiction movie, but it is a finding almost as real as the stars: German and American scientists found evidence of a planet similar to ours that orbits a star very similar to the Sun. This solar system “in mirror ”, as some astronomers define it, is located about 3,000 light years from Earth and could be a suitable place for life to exist.
So far, scientists around the world have managed to detect more than 4,000 exoplanets, planets outside our Solar System, and their search is to locate Earth-like planets. Following this objective, researchers from the Max Planck Institute, the Sonneberg Observatory, the University of Göttingen (all three in Germany), the University of California and NASA (both in the United States) obtained evidence in recent days of a planet that holds many similarities with ours. Dubbed KOI-456.04, it stands out from the rest because it orbits a star that is very similar to our Sun at a distance that would allow its surface temperatures to be compatible with life.
“The work was published in Astronomy & Astrophysics, one of the most important specialized magazines in astronomy in the world,” says Diego Bagú, director of the La Plata Planetarium and who details that around this star, called Kepler, “they had already been detected two planets: the Kepler 160B and the Kepler 160C. “
By analyzing the transits of the second planet around the star, Bagú explains, the researchers “found certain variations. And those variations in the passages on the second planet, they suspected, could be caused by gravitational pulls from an unseen third planet. This, it is good to clarify, is obtained from the inference because this third planet would not be passing in front of the star and, therefore, would not cause its brightness to diminish, something that precisely betrays the passage of the planet ”.
What Bagú explains is detailed by foreign scientists in his article. This third planet, as stated, orbits the Kepler star (which emits a lot of visible light), something that most exoplanet stars do not. Most of these stars tend to be small and dim and mostly emit infrared radiation, something that is incompatible with life on the planets it sheds light on, as they emit radiation that “fries” planets that get too close . Furthermore, Kepler is very similar in size to that of the Sun, barely 10% larger, and its surface temperature is only 300 degrees cooler; almost nothing in astrophysical terms.
According to preliminary reports, the discovered exoplanet orbits at a suitable distance to allow life, since if it were closer to its star it would be affected by its gravity, which would give rise to a high volcanism that would be fatal to any life. emergent. Thus, the calculated distance places it close enough to receive light and heat and some volcanic activity. Astrophysicists refer to this as the “habitable zone”, because it could mean that the conditions are right for liquid water to exist, which is crucial for the development of life as we know it.
This is why KOI-456.04 is so interesting. It meets the requirements for distance to its star, and at the same time, the planet itself is rocky and relatively similar to Earth in terms of formation. Likewise, the Earth and KOI-456.04 coincide in their orbital period: about 378 days compared to the 366 days it takes for us to make a complete turn around the Sun. This indicates that KOI-456.04 receives an equivalent amount of light, exactly 93 % Similary. However, there are also differences. This newly discovered exoplanet is less than twice the size of Earth. To the researchers, this appears to be a key point, because almost all exoplanets less than twice the size of Earth that tend to have the potential for Earth-like surface temperatures often orbit red dwarfs, rather than stars like Kepler. -160.
The exoplanet discovered orbits at a suitable distance to allow life, according to preliminary reports, since if it were closer to its star it would be affected by its gravity, resulting in high volcanism.