A Quick Rundown: The Five Closest Exoplanets That Could Potentially Support Life

But don't pack your bags just yet.

9. 16. 16 by Michelle Lee
M. Kornmesser/European Southern Observatory
Image by M. Kornmesser/European Southern Observatory

THE HIGH FIVE

Artist interpretation of Proxima b. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Astronomers have long been seeking an Earth-like planet that could support some form of life. One prominent discovery is the Proxima Centauri b, also known as Proxima b, which was found in the habitable zone of the red dwarf star, Proxima Centauri.

Despite these discoveries, there’s still a lot to learn.

“We know very little about these [types of] planets,” Thomas Barclay, senior research scientist and director of the Kepler and K2 missions, told Space.com.

So let’s go over what we do know about five of the closest Earth-like planets to us.

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Wolf 1061c

Located in the habitable zone of Wolf 1060 in the Ophiuchus constellation, this exoplanet is 4.3 times as large as the Earth, and is believed to have a rocky surface. It is also the second-nearest known exoplanet to us at 13.8 light-years from Earth, second only to Proxima b.

Gliese 832c

At five times the size of the Earth, astronomers identified Gliese 832c as a “super-Earth.” It was found 16 light-years away and revolves around Gliese 832 in just 36 days.

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Gliese 667Cc

Located 22 light-years away in the Scorpius constellation, Gliese 667Cc is also a super-Earth (3.9 times larger than Earth). It takes only 28 days for it to revolve around Gliese 667C.

TRAPPIST-1d

40 light-years away from Earth in the Aquarius constellation, TRAPPIST-1d is one among three Earth-like planets orbiting the dwarf star TRAPPIST-1.

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Gliese 163c

Located 49 light-years away in the Dorado constellation, Gliese 163c is also a super-Earth at a whopping seven times that of the Earth. It takes 26 days for it to orbit Gliese 163.

MILLIONS OF CHANCES FOR LIFE OUT THERE

Using the Kepler Space Telescope, NASA has discovered more than 2,000 planets that could possibly support life, but there’s still so much mystery surrounding these alien worlds. “For some of them, we know an approximate mass or an approximate radius, and we know roughly how far they are from their star — but that’s really all we know.” said Barclay.

And while living on these exoplanets may be possible, it will be an entirely different experience as life forms would have to adapt differently to its unique temperature, climate and environment. On Proxima b, for example, 

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“The light also isn’t the bright white-yellow light we get from the sun. It would be much more red. So, you would expect biology to evolve differently,” Barclay said, adding that solar flares from red dwarfs could also have a large impact on exoplanets orbiting them.

In the end, we won’t be packing our bags anytime soon to settle on one of Earth’s closest neighbors.


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