Found! 3 Super-Earth Planets That Could Support Life - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Found! 3 Super-Earth Planets That Could Support Life

Posted: Updated:
This artist's impression shows the view from the exoplanet Gliese 667Cd looking towards the planet's parent star (Gliese 667C). Image released on June 25, 2013. This artist's impression shows the view from the exoplanet Gliese 667Cd looking towards the planet's parent star (Gliese 667C). Image released on June 25, 2013.

NBCNEWS.COM - The habitable zone of a nearby star is filled to the brim with planets that could support alien life, scientists announced Tuesday. 

An international team of scientists found three potentially habitable planets around the star Gliese 667C, a star 22 light-years from Earth that is orbited by at least six planets, and possibly as many as seven, researchers said. The three planet contenders for alien life are in the star's "habitable zone" — the temperature region around the star where liquid water could exist. Gliese 667C is part of a three-star system, so the planets could see three suns in their daytime skies.

The three potentially rocky planets in Gliese 667C's habitable zone are known as super-Earths — exoplanets that are less massive than Neptune but more massive than Earth. Their orbits make them possible candidates for hosting life, officials from the European Southern Observatory said in a statement.

"We knew that the star had three planets from previous studies, so we wanted to see whether there were any more," co-leader of the study Mikko Tuomi of the University of Hertfordshire, U.K. said in a statement. "By adding some new observations and revisiting existing data we were able to confirm these three and confidently reveal several more. Finding three low-mass planets in the star's habitable zone is very exciting!"

This is the first time three low-mass planets have been spotted in the habitable zone of the same star system, and it's unlikely that astronomers will find any more around Gliese 667C. The star's habitable zone is packed full, making it impossible for another planet to orbit stably within the zone, the researchers said.

"The number of potentially habitable planets in our galaxy is much greater if we can expect to find several of them around each low-mass star — instead of looking at 10 stars to look for a single potentially habitable planet, we now know we can look at just one star and find several of them," team member Rory Barnes of the University of Washington said in a statement.

Gliese 667C is the faintest star in the three-star system. From the surface of the planets in orbit around Gliese 667C, the two brighter stars would be as bright as the full moon by night and shine visibly during the day, ESO scientists said.  

Gliese 667C is cooler and dimmer than the sun, making it possible for planets that have very close-in orbits to remain habitable. This star's habitable zone lies within an orbit the size of Mercury's around the sun, ESO officials said.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • PHOTOS: Priest Lake lots auctioned off

    PHOTOS: Priest Lake lots auctioned off

    Thursday, August 28 2014 8:46 PM EDT2014-08-29 00:46:58 GMT
    PRIEST LAKE, Idaho - 61 cottages sites on Priest Lake were auctioned off in Coeur d'Alene on Thursday. >>
    PRIEST LAKE, Idaho - 61 cottages sites on Priest Lake were auctioned off in Coeur d'Alene on Thursday. For years, those already living on the sites leased the land from the State of Idaho, but the State was looking to sell. Residents already living on the sites showed up on Thursday to buy them back, and many were successful. 


    >>
  • Priest Lake Auction: Saying goodbye to home

    Priest Lake Auction: Saying goodbye to home

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 10:50 PM EDT2014-08-28 02:50:23 GMT
    PRIEST LAKE, Idaho - After years of obstacles for 61 Priest Lake lot lessees, the end comes on Thursday, August 28th. >>
    PRIEST LAKE, Idaho - After years of obstacles for 61 Priest Lake lot lessees, the end comes on Thursday, August 28th. People who have been leasing land from the state, some more than 40 years, will find out if they get to keep their property in an auction.Back in 2010, the State of Idaho decided to divest more than 300 lake lots on Priest Lake.
    >>
  • VIRAL VIDEO: Tribute to Robin Wililams at the Emmy's

    VIRAL VIDEO: Tribute to Robin Wililams at the Emmy's

    Thursday, August 28 2014 11:46 AM EDT2014-08-28 15:46:43 GMT
    KHQ.COM - If you missed the Emmy's on Monday night, you missed a great tribute to Robin Williams. Billy Crystal paid tribute to his friend and the man that filled millions of homes with laughter saying, "It's very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in all of our lives.">>
    KHQ.COM - If you missed the Emmy's on Monday night, you missed a great tribute to Robin Williams. Billy Crystal paid tribute to his friend and the man that filled millions of homes with laughter saying, "It's very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in all of our lives.">>
  • Top Stories from KHQTop StoriesMore>>

  • PRIEST LAKE AUCTION: Most families retain lots that were in their family for generations

    PRIEST LAKE AUCTION: Most families retain lots that were in their family for generations

    Friday, August 29 2014 2:39 AM EDT2014-08-29 06:39:26 GMT
    PRIEST LAKE, Idaho- The Idaho Department of Lands earned nearly $27 million for Idaho's public school system in the Thursday auction of 59 lakefront lots. 58 of the 59 lots sold went to the original land owners. INSIDE: List of auctioned lots and winning bids>>
    PRIEST LAKE, Idaho- The Idaho Department of Lands earned nearly $27 million for Idaho's public school system in the Thursday auction of 59 lakefront lots. 58 of the 59 lots sold went to the original land owners. INSIDE: List of auctioned lots and winning bids>>
  • UPDATE: Joan Rivers 'Resting Comfortably' at Mount Sinai in New York

    UPDATE: Joan Rivers 'Resting Comfortably' at Mount Sinai in New York

    Friday, August 29 2014 12:45 AM EDT2014-08-29 04:45:02 GMT
    NEW YORK (AP) - Comedian Joan Rivers is in a New York City hospital, according to police and hospital officials who say she was rushed there from a doctor's office after going into cardiac arrest.Rivers' daughter later issued a statement about her mother's condition.>>
    NEW YORK (AP) - Comedian Joan Rivers is in a New York City hospital, according to police and hospital officials who say she was rushed there from a doctor's office after going into cardiac arrest.Rivers' daughter later issued a statement about her mother's condition.
    >>
  • UPDATE: Dog shot & killed by Spokane Valley deputy

    UPDATE: Dog shot & killed by Spokane Valley deputy

    Thursday, August 28 2014 8:47 PM EDT2014-08-29 00:47:57 GMT
    SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. - A Spokane County deputy shot and killed a dog Wednesday afternoon in Spokane Valley after he said the dog attacked him.>>
    SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. - A Spokane County deputy shot and killed a dog Wednesday afternoon in Spokane Valley after he said the dog attacked him. The Sheriff's Office told KHQ the deputy was trying to return property to the home near Sprague and Henry.  INSIDE>>>|RAW INTERVIEW from the dog's owner|>>