NASA couldn’t have sought planetary protection officers at a better time because we may be facing life in space. A team of astronomers has detected four Earth-sized planets orbiting a nearby sun-like star. Tau Ceti is close enough to Earth that it’s visible to the naked eye.
These planets have masses as low as 1.7 Earth mass, making them among the smallest planets ever detected around nearby sun-like stars. Two of them are super-Earths located in the habitable zone of the star, meaning they could support liquid surface water.
Researchers discovered the planets using a sensitive movement-detection technique. Two of the planets are potentially habitable, though prone to disruption by asteroids and comets. How these planets were studied is anything but simple.
“We are slowly learning to tell the difference between wobbles caused by planets and those caused by stellar active surface. This enabled us to essentially verify the existence of the two outer, potentially habitable planets in the system.”
We may not be migrating to the four planets anytime soon, but due to tau Ceti’s similarity to the sun, it could eventually be possible.