Great news in the search for planets that could hold life. New research suggests the search for habitable worlds should look to dim red dwarf stars, which may hold billions of chances for life — some of them in our own galactic neighborhood.
A new survey from the European Southern Observatory shows that red dwarf stars have substantial inhabitable zones, each which has a high probability of holding super-Earth planets — those with a mass 1-10x that of our own.
Through analysis of more than 100 red dwarfs over the past six years, they discovered that 40% of all red dwarf stars have a super-Earth orbiting in the habitable zone, where liquid water could exist. Throw that number into a galaxy with an estimated 160 billion red dwarf stars, and you see tens of billions of potentially life-bearing planets within the Milky Way.
There are even some likely candidates in our own neck of the woods. The survey calculated that within a 30 light-year radius of the Sun, we could expect around 100 habitable zone super-Earths. The most similar to our own planet identified was Gliese 667 Cc, which was found near the center of a habitable zone. It's the second planet in a trinary star system, and has four times the mass of Earth, but is the most likely to hold liquid water.
You can read more of the results here, and now that some of these planets have been identified, the researchers are hoping to analyze them further.
30 light-years? That's not so far...