Scientists See Promising Super Earth Planets Just 11 Light Years Away

A team of German astronomers has discovered two super-Earths near the red dwarf star Gliese 887 and only 11 light-years away from Earth.

Super-Earths are planets with a mass greater than that of Earth, but less than that of the ice giants Uranus and Neptune. The two exoplanets, or planets located outside of our solar system, were named Gliese 887b and Gliese 887c, respectively.


Working as part of the Red Dots campaign, astronomer Sandra Saffers of the University of Göttingen wrote a study on exoplanets published Thursday in the journal Science.

“These planets will provide the best possibilities for more detailed study, including searching for life outside our solar system,” wrote Jeffers.

The multiplanetary system of the newly discovered super-Earths orbiting near the red dwarf star Gliese 887 is seen in this artist's print.  Mark Garlick / Flyer via REUTERS.

The multiplanetary system of the newly discovered super-Earths orbiting near the red dwarf star Gliese 887 is seen in this artist’s print. Mark Garlick / Flyer via REUTERS.

The team monitored the system using the Radial High Speed ​​Planet Finder (HARPS) spectrograph from the European Southern Observatory of Chile and analyzed nearly 20 years of archival data in Gliese 887.

Using a technique called “Doppler wobble,” they discovered that the planets have orbits of only 9.3 and 21.8 days, faster than Mercury’s highly elliptical 88-day orbit.

Gliese 887b and Gliese 887c are located near their star’s habitable zone, an area where liquid water can potentially exist. That said, the Gliese 887c measurements suggest a surface temperature of 158 degrees Fahrenheit or 70 degrees Celsius.

Also, they could be rocky planets, like Mars and Earth.

Also, Gliese 887 is pretty quiet for a red dwarf star. Red dwarfs, while smaller and dimmer than our sun, often emit energetic flashes that can destroy a planet’s atmosphere.

Red dwarf systems represent approximately 70 percent of the Milky Way’s star population.

The University of Gottingen said Thursday that favorable conditions in Gliese 887 mean that “newly discovered planets may retain their atmospheres or have atmospheres thicker than Earth and potentially harbor life.”

Saffers’ research also suggests that our exoplanet neighbors could eventually be good targets for NASA’s long-delayed next-generation James Webb space telescope, a successor to the Hubble telescope that can provide more information, even if Gliese 887 exoplanets have atmospheres. .

The team also detected a signal further away that could correspond to a possible third planet that could be even more suitable for life.


According to NASA, more than 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered in total and are considered “confirmed”. However, there are thousands of other detections of “candidate” exoplanets.

Since the first exoplanets were discovered in the early 1990s, the number of known exoplanets has doubled approximately every 27 months.