Three new exoplanets have been found orbiting a nearby star, and one of them is ranked pretty highly for potential habitability.
All three are rocky, and within the vicinity of Earth-sized – and the outermost is orbiting the star in the habitable zone, where temperatures are compatible with the possibility of liquid water on the surface.
The star is Gliese 1061, at a distance of 3.67 parsecs – around 12 light-years away – making it the 20th closest star to the Solar System. And its three planets are Gliese 1016 b, Gliese 1016 c and Gliese 1016 d.
If you have precise enough detection methods – which we do – this wobble can be used not just to infer the presence of a planet (or several planets), but to calculate their mass, based on how much the star is wobbling.
This returned some pretty interesting masses for Gliese 1061’s planets. Gliese 1016 b – the innermost planet – is 1.38 times the mass of Earth. The middle planet, Gliese 1016 c, is 1.75 times the mass of Earth. And the outermost planet, Gliese 1016 d, is 1.68 times the mass of Earth.
This is also how we infer the planets are rocky, since those masses are rarely seen in gaseous
Of course, this doesn’t mean life is waiting for us to find it just 12 light-years away.
As the researchers note, the star may be relatively quiet now, but it probably was quite active in its recent past. If it has been bathing its planets in stellar radiation, any life that was there is unlikely to have survived.