Super Earth 'is best place to look for signs of life'

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"When it passed between the star and the Earth, it dimmed the light of the star, and we were able to measure this dimming and to identify LHS 1140b", lead author Jason Dittmann, from Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (US), told IBTimes UK.

On top of that, "statistical results suggest that the nearest transiting Earth-sized planet in the liquid-water, habitable zone of an M dwarf star is probably around 10.5 parsecs [or 34 light-years] away".

According to the measurements, LHS 1140b has a diameter 1.4 times that of Earth and a mass 6.6 times that of our own planet.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Astronomers have found yet another planet that seems to have just the right combination to support life.

An artist's impression of the newly discovered rocky exoplanet, LHS 1140b.

Once the star contracted, the planet's magma would cool and release gases and water, creating a place more suitable for life right at the time that it moved into the habitable zone of the star. Many are so far away that it will be a challenge to get to know them.

The first planet outside our solar system was discovered in 1995, but thanks to new techniques and especially NASA's planet-hunting Kepler telescope, the number of them has exploded in recent years. TRAPPIST-1 remains the record-holder for the most Goldilocks planets discovered orbiting a star. The host star is also relatively close to Earth, which means its light is just bright enough to be used as a tool to peer into the planet's atmosphere.

The MEarth-South telescope array, located at Cerro Tololo observatory in Chile, searches for planets by monitoring the brightness of nearby, small stars.

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But the star that Dittmann found is a bit more intriguing since it's fairly quiet. "LHS 1140 is brighter at optical wavelengths because it's slightly bigger than the TRAPPIST-1 star". They are rocky like Earth, and similar in density and mass.

With Earth Day fast approaching, it's once again time for us to take stock of how we are treating our planet. These pictures also recorded additional transits - so much so that they allowed astronomers to predict a transit that'd occur in September 2016, picked up by a telescope in Perth.

"The LHS 1140 system might prove to be an even more important target for the future characterization of planets in the habitable zone than Proxima b or TRAPPIST-1", researchers Xavier Delfosse and Xavier Bonfils said. The amount of sunlight this super-Earth receives is about half as much as Earth. LHS 1140b is circling a red dwarf star, which emits less heat and light than the Sun. But after the discovery of LHS 1140b, astronomers were clouded out from locations where it should be visible. NASA, its maker, has slated its launch for 2018.

Although the planet is potentially habitable now, it might have faced a hellish past.

Indeed, we won't know much more about any of these planets' habitability until we can observe their atmospheres, which will require more powerful telescopes than today's state-of-the-art. "And when the next generation of telescopes come online [The James Webb Space Telescope, and the ground-based Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) and European-Extremely Large Telescope (EELT) ], we'll be in a great spot to find out what sorts of atmospheres planets around M dwarfs have".

"We originally thought it was just something amusing going on in the atmosphere", Harvard astronomer Jason Dittmann, the study's lead author, told Gizmodo. And that means there's a better chance that this planet may be holding onto some valuable chemicals, like organic molecules and water.

"For now, we do not have the technology to travel at a velocity close to the speed of light", Astudillo-Defru said.

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