An international team of researchers has discovered 114 new planets, including a “super-Earth” and 60 others that could support life.
After observing data from a 20-year long survey, the researchers analyzed 1,624 stars and found 60 significant potential planets and 54 planet candidates that still need follow-up research, according to the study.
“We were very conservative in this paper about what counts as an exoplanet candidate and what does not,“ said researcher Mikko Tuomi in a release on the study. “And even with our stringent criteria, we found over 100 new likely planet candidates.”
One of the planets discovered, GJ411b, is a hot, rocky-surfaced “super-Earth” that was found orbiting GJ411, the fourth nearest star to the sun.
The planet has a short orbital period of a little less than 10 days, which is very different from the 365 days it takes our home planet, according to the release. Though it’s not an Earth twin, it follows the trend in detected exoplanets in which the smallest planets are found around the smallest stars.
GJ411b’s discovery could mean that all the stars near the sun have planets orbiting them, which means that they too might be capable of supporting alien life.
“It is fascinating to think that when we look at the nearest stars, all of them appear to have planets orbiting them,” researcher Mikko Tuomi told the Independent. “This is something astronomers were not convinced about, even as little as five years ago. These new planets also help us better understand the formation processes of planetary systems and provide interesting targets for future efforts to image the planets directly.”
The scientists were able to locate the planets using the radial velocity method. Orbiting planets cause stars to wobble in space, which changes the color of the light the astronomers observe, according to NASA. Astronomers are able to measure this wobble to find where a planet might be hiding.
The researchers hope their findings will spark new research as astronomers worldwide combine their own observations with to the existing data, or launch new observing campaigns to track potential signals.
This is the largest-ever compilation of exoplanet detecting observations.