In about 79,000 years, they will replace Proxima Centauri and Proxima b as our closest star and closest potentially habitable exoplanet, respectively. The name doesn't make it sound like anything special and it's still far too soon to tell, but Ross 128 b might be the nearest planet that supports life.
Within the next 10 years, a new generation of ultra-powerful telescopes will start studying the atmospheres of exoplanets looking for signs of life, such as oxygen. "These two stars are quite active". "They list all the close encounters with other stars, and because of the relative movements of stars and the Sun, it results that Ross 128 will be our closest star". Ben Moore, Director of the Center for Theoretical Astrophysics and Cosmology at the University of Zurich. However, the star is 280 times dimmer than our Sun, meaning it approximately evens out and may have a similar surface temperature to Earth. "Depending on its composition and the reflectivity of its clouds, the exoplanet may be life friendly with liquid water as the Earth, or sterile like Venus".
Eleven light-years away from Earth, Ross 128 b is the second closest exoplanet to our solar system, next to only Proxima b.
Another requirement for finding life at this stage is that the exoplanet in question must be close enough for astronomers to observe it - or, rather, observe the effect that it has on its star. Other red dwarfs "are subject to flares that occasionally bathe their orbiting planets in deadly ultraviolet and X-ray radiation", according to a press release from the European Southern Observatory. Proxima b is about 4 light-years from Earth. "That is very risky for life and may mean that world is a dead world", Prof. The planet orbits Ross 128, an inactive red dwarf star. Then, Ross 128 b will also replace Proxima Centauri's exoplanet, Proxima b, as our closest exoplanet and our closest potentially-habitable exoplanet.
Red dwarves, Dr. Astudillo-Defru explains, are not the ideal stars to host life, but given humanity's technological constraints now, they're not a bad place to look. In comparison, Earth is around 93 million miles away from the Sun.
Red dwarfs are some of the coolest, faintest and most common stars in the universe.
Still, though, there's a whole lot of work to be done before anyone can be sure. about whether there actually is extraterrestrial life on Ross 128 b.
Astronomers are waiting for the year 2024, when ESO will be opening the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which will have a mirror around 40 metres across - around four times bigger than any current telescope mirror. Although Ross 128's bouts of X-ray and ultraviolet radiation may not be as unsafe as Proxima Centauri's, it doesn't mean that Ross 128 b has a hospitable atmosphere.