Just 12 light years away, planet is one of five found orbiting Sun-like star Tau Ceti
A nearby Sun-like star is host to a planet that may be capable of supporting life, according to an international group of astronomers.
The planet is one of five orbiting one of the closest Sun-like stars to Earth, Tau Ceti. It’s in a so-called “habitable zone,” the region around a star where it’s possible for a planet to have enough pressure to maintain liquid water on its surface.
Tau Ceti is 12 light years from Earth and visible to the naked eye in the evening sky.
“This discovery is in keeping with our emerging view that virtually every star has planets, and that the galaxy must have many such potentially habitable Earth-sized planets,” said Steve Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Tau Ceti’s five planets are estimated to have masses between two and six times that of Earth, making it the lowest-mass planetary system yet detected. The planet that lies in its habitable zone has a mass about five times that of Earth’s.
“Tau Ceti is one of our nearest cosmic neighbors and so bright that we may be able to study the atmospheres of these planets in the not-too-distant future,” said James Jenkins of the Universidad de Chile and a member of the astronomy team.
“The Earth isn’t unique, nor the center of the universe,” said Geoff Marcy, professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, in an earlier interview. “The diversity of other worlds is greater than depicted in all the science fiction novels and movies. Aristotle would be proud of us for answering some of the most profound philosophical questions about our place in the universe.”
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