Newfound Earth-Like Exoplanet Could Support Life
An international team of astronomers has just discovered a planet that is considered to be one of three exoplanets that are most similar to Earth. Approximately five times larger than our home planet, it has been called another "mega-Earth." Robert Wittenmyer et al found this planet after observing small changes in the gravity of its host star, Gliese.
The planet, dubbed Gliese 832c, was found in Gliese's habitable zone, or the area in which the distance from the star yields temperatures that will allow for the existence of liquid water. If we should ever be interested in colonizing this planet, it is extremely close from a cosmic standpoint; it is only 16 light-years away from Earth. (The farthest point in our galaxy, the Milky Way, is 100,000 light-years away.)
According to the Earth Similarity Index (ESI), a formula commonly used by astronomers to determine an exoplanet's similarity to Earth, Gliese 832c is approximately as Earth-like as Gliese 667Cc and Kepler-62e. Where a clone planet of Earth has an ESI of 1, Gliese 832c has an ESI of .81. Abel Mendez Torres, director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico wrote, "This makes Gliese 832c one of the top three most Earth-like planets according to the ESI (i.e., with respect to Earth's stellar flux and mass) and the closest one to Earth of all three - a prime object for follow-up observations."
Gliese 832c has become the 24th planet in the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog, a compilation from the University of Puerto Rico which details the planets that may be able to support alien life or even human colonies.