This might be even better than Kepler 22b! An alien exoplanet has been discovered, which resembles our own Earth the most. It is the best bet scientists are putting forward for a planet outside our own Solar System that is capable of harbouring liquid water. It lies in just the right zone – called the Goldilocks Zone – at the perfect distance away from its parent star and might even be congenial enough to harbour life of the form we see on Earth. It is also our next door neighbour, being just 22 light years away. The planet is christened GJ 667C.
Just to give you a sense of how close GJ677C is, consider the fact that there are only 100 stars closer to Earth than this planet. The planet occurs bang in the middle of the Goldilocks zone, as Steven Vogt, astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, emphatically stresses in an interview to space.com:
It’s right smack in the habitable zone – there is no question or discussion about it. It’s not on the edge, it’s right in there!
The planet is about 4.5 times the size of Earth, but is not gaseous. It is rocky, having a composition similar to that of Earth. It orbits its parent star in only 28 days. The parent star is one of a triple-star system, which by itself is a nice fact about this planetary system. The star is a faint M-star, but still visible from Earth. This faintness of the star explains the fact the planet is quite close to the star – as indicated by its small orbital period – while still being in the Goldilocks zone, which is in itself a first instance. It just shows that there are systems which, otherwise deemed boring, might be worth checking.
The sight of the sky from GJ667C should be great! It’s parent star is one of a triple-star system, which means that apart from its own sun, the planet’s sky has two more suns, which are also just far enough to not destabilize the orbit or burn up the planet. Vogt does the explanation again:
The planet is around one star in a triple-star system. The other stars are pretty far away, but they would look pretty nice in the sky.
The study was published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.