Best chance for alien life might be just outside our solar system

12 Nov 2015

Astronomers looking just outside our solar system believe they may have spotted two planets that show some serious potential for harbouring at least the most basic forms of life.

The two planets are some distance apart, with the first planet, GJ 1132b, lying just on the edge of our solar system, while the second dwarf planet, designated V774104, is farther into our Milky Way galaxy.

According to CNN, the first and closer planet of this discovery offers, by far, the greatest hope of being a habitable planet for life, being approximately the same size as Earth with a radius just 16pc larger than our own and a surface temperature that reaches a height of 260 degrees Celsius.

Already, despite its obvious intense heat ruling out the possibility of liquid water on its surface, it is exciting scientists because its proximity to Earth will allow astronomers to study it in unprecedented detail with potential for at least bacteria to live on its surface.

Writing in an accompanying letter of the journal report in Nature, astronomer Drake Deming has said of the discovery: “GJ 1132b (is) arguably the most important planet ever found outside the solar system.”

Other details revealed about this planet show that it moves in the orbit of a red dwarf measuring one-fifth the size of our own sun every 1.6 days.

As for V774104, the dwarf planet, three-times further away than Pluto, is an icy interstellar body with a width of a maximum 1,000km.

Adding a touch of mystery to the discovery, one of the astronomers involved in the study and who announced it at the American Astronomical Society, Scott Sheppard, said: “We can’t explain these objects’ orbits from what we know about the solar system.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic