Discovering a new super-earth
Through an international effort, scientists have recently discovered a new super-earth, called GJ 536 b. A super-earth counts as anything larger than earth but also smaller than our larger planets, Uranus and Neptune, which are as big as 17 earth masses. This new planet is just 5.6 earth masses so it has more similarities to earth than the larger planets.
The planet orbits a red dwarf star meaning the star is not as big as our own sun, but it still emits a lot of heat. A contributing scientist from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), Jonay Isaí González Hernandez said, “This rocky exoplanet [GJ 536] is orbiting a star much smaller and cooler than the Sun... but, sufficiently nearby and bright.”
Possibility of future planet discoveries
Unfortunately, this specific planet is too close to its star to be habitable, but the discovery may lead to finding other similar planets orbiting further away from the same start. While planet GJ 536 b has an orbiting period of 8.7 days, lead author, Alejandro Suárez Mascareño said, "We are pretty sure that we can find other low-mass planets in orbits further from the star, with periods from 100 days up to a few years.”
Additionally, Mascareño said that “rocky planets are usually found in groups” so we may soon discover new nearby planets. If we find potentially habitable planets, then further research and investigation will have to happen before we get a chance a discovering new life. A new, possible solution for getting better images of these potential life inhabiting planets is a telescope by NASA called WFIRST which is scheduled to launch in the mid-2020’s.
While there are already some very promising planets, such as Proxima b, with the potential to harbor life, finding these new possibilities could open a lot of new doors for space exploration. With enough funding, within the next 20 to 30 years we could perhaps be sending high tech cameras and droids to touch down on some of these planets to see what there is to see.