Astronomers have announced the discovery of a tantalizing exoplanet that is relatively close to the Earth and appears to possess the ideal conditions to support life.
The newfound world, which has been given the moniker 'Ross 128 b,' sits a mere 11 light-years away, making it the closest potentially hospitable exoplanet yet to be found.
What makes Ross 128 b particularly intriguing to scientists is that it orbits a fairly dim star and, therefore, it is not subjected to harsh radiation that would render life impossible.
Additionally, the exoplanet looks to be similar in mass to the Earth, indicating that it probably has a rocky composition believed to be necessary for the emergence of organisms.
However, questions remain as to whether Ross 128 b could support life as astronomers still do not know the nature of its atmosphere and, thus, the general temperature on the exoplanet is unknown.
Compounding the uncertainty surrounding the new world is that there are currently no telescopes on Earth capable of gathering the specific data that would shed light on these mysteries.
Nonetheless, among the countless exoplanets discovered so far, Ross 128 b represents the closest and most promising find so far, leading one astronomer who co-authored the paper announcing the news to marvel that "this one is special."
While that very well may be the case, let's hope that, if it truly does harbor life, we can come up with something better to call it than 'Ross 128 b,' since the name doesn't exactly spark the imagination.
Source: Washington Post