Astronomers are currently debating whether five objects surrounding a star 12 light-years away from the earth are planets.
If so, the fourth planet — “planet e” — may have conditions resembling Earth.
“Astronomer Mikko Tuomi of the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom and his colleagues analyzed more than 6000 observations of Tau Ceti from telescopes in Chile, Australia, and Hawaii,” reported ScienceNOW.
The Herald Sun wrote that Tuomi’s team’s findings — published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics — ”have extraordinary implications for the search for life in space, and, perhaps, even interstellar space travel.”
Tau Ceti is a single star system 12 light-years away, meaning that it takes light 12 years to travel from it to Earth.
The star burns yellow like the sun, although it only emits 45 percent as much light, and it is nearly twice as old as the sun.
By comparison, it takes approximately 8 minutes and 11 seconds for light to travel from the sun to Earth.
The speed of light in a vacuum — entirely devoid of matter — is 186,282 miles per second. Outer space, while not a perfect vacuum, is the closest physical approximation to one in existence.
All five planets also orbit closer to Tau Ceti than Mars does to the sun, and are two to five times the size of Earth.
“Planet e” — the planet in question — is estimated to orbit closer to Tau Ceti than Venus does to the sun. It also has a 168-day year.
While the discovery still has yet to be confirmed, the possibility that its conditions may have proved ripe to develop or sustain life is tantalizing for astronomers.
The journal dismissed, however, whether the planet houses extraterrestrial life, stating that “there’s evidence to back it up.”
SETI Institute, a nonprofit scientific organization, failed to find signs of artificial radio signals produced by extraterrestrials in the 1960s.