Scientist looking for Earth-like planets in the nearby horizons of the solar system could finally have an answer.
Making use of NASA's Kepler space telescope, a team from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) found out that the closest planet resembling the Earth could be as near as just 13 light years away when they discovered that six percent of the red dwarf stars have Earth-like planets both in terms of their size and habitability.
"We thought we would have to search vast distances to find an Earth-like plant. Now we realize another Earth is probably in our own backyard, waiting to be spotted," said Courtney Dressing, Harvard astronomer and lead author, in a press release.
The red dwarf stars are not visible to the naked eye from the Earth but they are known to be much smaller, dimmer and cooler than the Sun.
Majority of the stars in our galaxy constitute the red dwarf stars and are good places to find Earth-like planets, according to the release. These stars have hitherto been considered less likely to habitat lives, but the team's finding that 6 percent of those planets could possibly be Earth-like simmers some hope.
Red dwarfs are known to be planets that live for long and burn slowly and those planets that bear resemblance to the Earth could be older than our own. If patterns of lives were to be found within that group of stars, chances are that we would land up finding civilizations that are far more advanced than we are.
"We now know the rate of occurrence of habitable planets around the most common stars in our galaxy," said co-author David Charbonneau from CfA. "That rate implies that it will be significantly easier to search for life beyond the solar system than we previously thought."
Scientist would need "a dedicated small space telescope, or a large network of ground-based telescopes" to determine if some plants have habitats. Future studies with instruments such as Giant Magellan Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope might prove if those planets have an atmosphere and favorable chemical compositions to support life, the press release says.
The results will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.
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