The star this planet orbits is only about 22 light years away from Earth, and it has the very poetic name GJ 667C. GJ 667C is a red dwarf star that’s actually part of a triple star system with two other orange dwarf stars. This finding indicates that planets – even potentially habitable planets – can exist in different stellar configurations.
“This was expected to be a rather unlikely star to host planets. Yet there they are, around a very nearby, metal-poor example of the most common type of star in our galaxy,” Steven Vogt, an astronomer on the team said in a press release. “The detection of this planet, this nearby and this soon, implies that our galaxy must be teeming with billions of potentially habitable rocky planets.”
The newly discovered planet is a rocky one, which is about 4.5 times the mass of the Earth and receives about 90% of the light that Earth does. However, the light this planet receives is primarily in the infrared spectrum, which means that the amount of energy on the surface of the planet should be comparable to the amount of energy that the Earth receives.
A lot more study is obviously needed before this can be claimed to be truly habitable – the presence of both liquid water and an atmosphere would need to be confirmed. It also remains to be seen if life can evolve under the effect of that kind of gravity, particularly complex, multicellular life.
That said, it’s a potentially habitable planet that has my nerd brain firing on all cylinders. Think about it – this is a star that orbits a red sun. It’s got about 4.5 times the mass of Earth, which means that if beings from that planet came here, they’d be incredibly strong. Their vision would have evolved to see in the infrared and, who knows, possibly even emit it as heat.
All I’m saying is that if we meet beings from this world, somebody needs to bring the Kryptonite.