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Scientists discover a super-Earth 37 light years from us

The Subaru Telescope in Japan has discovered Ross 508b – a super-Earth with a mass of almost four times that of our planet 

Rocky planets larger than Earth are called super-Earths.
Rocky planets larger than Earth are called super-Earths. (Photo by Alexander Andrews, Unsplash)

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There's exciting news for all exoplanet enthusiasts. A super-Earth located 37 light years from us has been discovered. The Subaru Strategic Program, established in 2007 to create exceptional scientific discoveries with the Subaru Telescope in Japan, has contributed to the discovery of a super-Earth that is only 37 light-years away from our planet and is skimming the borders of a red dwarf star's habitable zone.

This rocky "super-Earth," named Ross 508b, has a mass almost four times that of our planet. A year on Ross 508b is equivalent to 11 Earth days. This indicates that its orbit is comparatively smaller since red dwarfs are much smaller than the Sun, which serves as the centre of our solar system.

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Because of its irregular orbit, the Ross 508b essentially dips in and out of the habitable zone and isn't constantly as near to the star. This kind of planet might be able to keep water on its surface. However, whether life would be able to thrive there is up for more research and debate. 

For many years now, humans have been curious about extraterrestrial life – life outside our planet. Exoplanets are amongst some of the most researched and explored astronomical wonders. So, what are exoplanets and how do they impact us?

What are super-Earths?

Super-Earths are a unique class of exoplanets (a planet that orbits a star outside the solar system) that are heavier than ice giants like Neptune and Uranus yet more massive than Earth. They can be made of rock, gas, or a combination of both. They range in size from being up to 10 times the mass of Earth to being only twice its size. Kepler-452b was the first Earth-size planet discovered around a near solar twin. Scientists believe that there is a super-Earth at the edge of our own Solar System as well. 

Proxima Centauri b is the closest exoplanet to Earth, located at a distance of 4.2 light years from us. So far, 1,577 super-Earths have been discovered by scientists on Earth.

Are they habitable?

The first exoplanet was discovered in 1995. Kepler-186f was the first Earth-sized planet discovered in the potentially ‘habitable zone’ by astronomers; liquid water could potentially exist on the surface of this exoplanet. The distance from a star at which liquid water could exist on the surfaces of circling planets is known as the "habitable zone."

Another super-Earth, named K2-18 b, has been deemed to support life. The planet has a temperature that potentially supports life, and it is located in what astronomers refer to as the habitable zone. The rocky planet also referred to as a super-Earth, has eight times the mass of Earth. However, not all super-Earths lie within this zone and hence, the same cannot be claimed for them. 

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