Could there be extraterrestrial life on Ross 128 b ? Image Credit: NASA
Discovered by the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, this new extrasolar world is 1.35 times the mass of our own planet and orbits around 20 times closer to its parent star ( a red dwarf ) than the Earth orbits the Sun.
While Ross 128 b is further away from us than Proxima b – another potentially habitable world situated a mere 4.22 light years away – scientists believe that it is more likely to be capable of supporting life.
“Just because Proxima Centauri blasts its planet with strong flares and high energy radiation, yes, I think Ross 128 is much more comfortable for the development of life,” said co-discoverer Nicola Astudillo-Defru from the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland.
“But we still need to know what the atmosphere of Ross 128 b is like.”
“Depending on its composition and the reflectivity of its clouds, the exoplanet may be life friendly with liquid water as the Earth, or sterile like Venus.”
Determining exactly what kind of atmospheres Ross 128 b and Proxima b might have however will need to wait until after NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope launches in 2019.