Earth-like planets abound in red dwarf systems

Slow-burning stars may host civilizations far more advanced than our own


The nearest Earth-like planet that could support liquid water may be much closer than first believed, according to new research by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

"We thought we would have to search vast distances to find an Earth-like planet," said Harvard astronomer and lead author Courtney Dressing in a statement. "Now we realize another Earth is probably in our own backyard, waiting to be spotted."

The team analyzed data from NASA's Kepler space telescope to look at red dwarf stars, slow-growing solar furnaces that make up around three-quarters of the stars in our galaxy. These have been considered poor candidates for Earth-like planets, but the team found 6 per cent of red dwarfs could harbor conditions for life as we know it.

With at least 75 billion available red dwarfs, that adds up to a lot of planets suitable for life. And based on this simple survey, Dressing found 95 suitable planets, three of which being a similar size to Earth and warm enough for liquid water, with the nearest just 13 light years away.

Because red dwarfs are long-lived, slow-burning stars, some of the Earth-like planets found could be significantly older than our own. If the pattern of life has taken a similar course, this could lead to civilizations much more advanced than our own. "We might find an Earth that's 10 billion years old," speculated coauthor David Charbonneau.

But there's a world of difference (pun unintended) between finding a planet that's well-positioned to support humanity and analysis of its atmosphere to find out if it really could. It may be unlikely that we'll find planets out there that could support unaided humans, but given a closer examination by instruments such as the Giant Magellan Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope, who knows? ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Robotics and 5G to spur growth of SoC industry – report
    Big OEMs hogging production and COVID causing supply issues

    The system-on-chip (SoC) side of the semiconductor industry is poised for growth between now and 2026, when it's predicted to be worth $6.85 billion, according to an analyst's report. 

    Chances are good that there's an SoC-powered device within arm's reach of you: the tiny integrated circuits contain everything needed for a basic computer, leading to their proliferation in mobile, IoT and smart devices. 

    The report predicting the growth comes from advisory biz Technavio, which looked at a long list of companies in the SoC market. Vendors it analyzed include Apple, Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, TSMC, Toshiba, and more. The company predicts that much of the growth between now and 2026 will stem primarily from robotics and 5G. 

    Continue reading
  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022