2017-04-19. A New Exoplanet May Be Most Promising Yet in Search for Life.

posted Apr 21, 2017, 9:26 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Apr 21, 2017, 9:31 AM ]

By Dennis Overbye, The New York Times. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 8. Excerpt: A prime planet listing has just appeared on the cosmic real estate market, possibly the most promising place yet to search for signs of life beyond the solar system, the astronomers who discovered it say. It is a rocky orb about one and a half times the size of Earth, about 40 light years from here. It circles a dwarf star known as LHS 1140 every 25 days, an orbit that puts it in the “Goldilocks” zone where temperatures are conducive to liquid water and perhaps life as we know it. It is close enough that astronomers are hopeful that with the next generation of big telescopes, they will be able to probe its atmosphere for signs of water or other evidence of suitability for life. “This planet is really close to us: If we shrank the Milky Way to the size of the United States, LHS 1140 and the sun would fit inside Central Park,” David Charbonneau, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in an email. His colleague Jason Dittmann, who led the discovery team and is lead author of a paper published on Wednesday in Nature, said in a statement,“This is the most exciting exoplanet I’ve seen in the last decade.” The planet was discovered by the MEarth-South survey at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, an array of small telescopes that looks for the dips in starlight when planets pass in front of nearby stars....  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/19/science/exoplanet-signs-of-life.html