It seems like scientists are finding new exoplanets — planets outside of our own solar system — on nearly a weekly basis these days. Now a team of astronomers has drawn attention to a star called “Tau Ceti,” which they are comparing to our beloved Sun. It fits the criteria, and it has planets orbiting it in the “habitable zone,” which may contain a planet with the perfect conditions for life.
Tau Ceti is only 12 light years away from Earth. In galactic terms, this is relatively close. It’s so close to us that it’s visible at night with the naked eye, without aid of a telescope. As reported by Gizmodo.com, the astronomers have found five planets that orbit Tau Ceti, and they believe one of them may be habitable.
‘Tau Ceti is one of our nearest cosmic neighbors and so bright that we may be able to study the atmospheres of these planets in the not-too-distant future. Planetary systems found around nearby stars close to our Sun indicate that these systems are common in our Milky Way galaxy,’ said James Jenkins of Universidad de Chile.
The size of the planets varies from two to six times the total mass of the Earth. The discovery of these planets around Tau Ceti marks the “lowest-mass planetary system yet detected,” which means it’s pretty similar to us. According to UC Santa Cruz professor of astronomy and astrophysicist Steve Vogt, “This discovery is in keeping with our emerging view that virtually every star has planets, and that the galaxy must have many such potentially habitable Earth-sized planets.”
The likelihood of finding more planets like our own seems inevitable. If there is a planet out there that can sustain life, and if it is relatively close to our solar system, then we might finally have a destination to strive for outside of our home system.
The International team of astronomer’s findings can be found in an upcoming issue of the scientific journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.