Artist’s impression of the Tau Ceti system. (Credit: J. Pinfield for the RoPACS network at the University of Hertfordshire, 2012)

Closest Single Star Like Our Sun May Have Habitable Planet

Dec. 19, 2012 — An international team of astronomers led by the University of Hertfordshire has discovered that Tau Ceti, one of the closest and most Sun-like stars, may host five planets — with one in the star’s habitable zone.

At a distance of twelve light years and visible with the naked eye in the evening sky, Tau Ceti is the closest single star that has the same spectral classification as our Sun. Its five planets are estimated to have masses between two and six times the mass of Earth — making it the lowest-mass planetary system yet detected. One of the planets lies in the habitable zone of the star and has a mass around five times that of Earth, making it the smallest planet found to be orbiting in the habitable zone of any Sun-like star.

The international team of astronomers, from the UK, Chile, the USA, and Australia, combined more than six-thousand observations from three different instruments and intensively modelled the data. Using new techniques, the team has found a method to detect signals half the size previously thought possible. This greatly improves the sensitivity of searches for small planets and suggests that Tau Ceti is not a lone star but has a planetary system.

Read more: Closest single star like our sun may have habitable planet — Science Daily.

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