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Scientists from the University of Granada (UGR) and of Liege (Belgium) have discovered that the star GJ 273, known as Luyten and one of the most close to the Earth -is 12,23 light-years-on-site planetary system as complex as ours could also have the ability to house of life .

In an article published in the journal “Astronomy&Astrophysics”, the researchers explain that the system could be made up of multiple planets, as a reservoir of minor bodies, “and it may even hold water, as a result of the statistics and the simulations that we have done, although it does not yet have any other direct evidence”, explains Francisco J. Pozuelos, a researcher at Liege and the main author of the publication.

The system of Luyten, the fourth closest to the Sun (it is located three times farther away than the nearest, proxima Centauri (b), in orbit around a dwarf star M 12.23 a.l. (1 to.l., expressed as ‘year-light’, is equivalent to 9 and 12 zeros behind kilometers). It has two confirmed planets (called GJ 273b and GJ 273c), but you can also have two other possible, GJ 273d and GJ 273e. According to its authors, the dynamic analysis including these two worlds candidates makes the system highly stable and, therefore, very likely.

liquid Water

These two candidates would have a mass lower than Neptune, ranging between 9 and 12 times the mass of the Earth, which in the jargon of astrophysics is known as “mini-Neptunos”. For its part, the planets already confirmed, GJ 273c has a mass similar to that of our planet, while GJ 273b is considered a supertierra. This last one is especially attractive, since its orbit is close to the inner edge of the comfort zone of their host star (the precise place where not too much cold nor too much heat and can hold liquid water). In addition, it suffers a warm-up by tides, the same phenomenon that by the that there are the tides on Earth due to the gravitational interaction with the Moon and the Sun.

As explained Juan Carlos Suarez, a researcher at the UGR and the co-author of this work, “the warming by tidal makes GJ 273b a planet highly interesting, since this makes it compatible with the development and the existence of a biosphere”.

Another similarity with our Solar System is the presence of deposits of minor bodies, such as predict the researchers. It is asteroids, such as those found in the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter) or in the Kuiper belt (beyond Neptune) in the Solar System, whose impact in the presence of water or the production of organic products could be important, as is postulated for the Solar System.

scientists are predicting deposits of this type around Luyten, which, if confirmed, could play an important role in the emergence and maintenance of life in the GJ 273b.

Odds of life

But, what is the hope of these worlds harbor life? “Every time we discover a planet in the habitable zone we have a great hope that hostel life, but what is certain is that, at the moment this has not been confirmed. Yet it is difficult to answer the question of whether the fact that the we have observed means that it is very unlikely, or if on the contrary it could be quite likely but we have seen very little. What is certain is that we must “look” still much more to respond,” explains Suárez.

in order To have evidence of these two planets, “should be performed more observations to make spectroscopic measurements of radial velocity. This would help us to improve the precision with which we detect planets and determine their physical characteristics,” says Suarez. To do this, “is ideal an instrument pointer as the spectrograph CARMENES (Almería)”.

To the researchers, the system is an excellent candidate for the search of traces of life, with future space missions. In the opinion of the investigator, “technically we’re in an interesting moment because in the next few years will be put into orbit space missions to explore the atmospheres of planets more interesting we discovered, just as those studied in this work, in search of biomarkers, that is to say, traces physico-chemical whose probable origin is biological. Who knows, you may just have to wait a decade or two to figure it out!”.