Scientists have discovered a “super-Earth” orbiting a red dwarf star, according to BGR. This discovery is the first of its kind by the IRD Subaru Strategic Plan (IRD-SSP). In addition, it raises new questions for astronomers who now question whether low-mass stars, such as red dwarfs, can provide planets capable of supporting life.
The newly discovered exoplanet, named Ross 508 b, orbits the elliptical orbit of its parent star. The “super-Earth” is about four times as massive as Earth and was discovered using infrared techniques. The planet itself is very close to its star.
However, its orbit passes through the star’s “habitable zone” every time. This means that there may be key components of life living in the atmosphere. As it approaches the star and passes through its habitable zone, scientists are eager to learn more about Ross 508 b. They are also curious to know if the surface temperatures around low-mass stars like red dwarfs could allow for the presence of liquid water.
As one of the key ingredients for life, the discovery of liquid water on a planet would be great news for astronomers.
Another impressive aspect of this discovery is that it is the first planet to be discovered using this new infrared method. Compared to other stars, red dwarfs are very cold. Their temperatures are between about 2000 and 3500 Kelvin.
These relatively low temperatures dim the visible light from the stars, making them harder to detect. Using infrared light has allowed scientists to discover the “super-Earths” orbiting the red dwarf.
Scientists developed this method because red dwarfs are very common in the region that surrounds our solar system. As a result, they are some of the best places to look for potential signs of life outside our galaxy. But finding them has to be easier, which is why they developed IRD-SSP. And so far, this first discovery seems to have paid off quite well.