The discovery of 16 super Earths has scientists believing that at least one of the exoplanets could support life. Thanks to HARPS, researchers have gotten one step closer to learning if other distant life exists within or beyond the Milky Way.
Sitting atop the La Silla Observatory in Chile, a team of scientists with the European Southern Observatory (or ESO) announced a major breakthrough after the discovery.
Using the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher, the team claims that an "alien planet" exists and orbits a distant star, similar to how the Earth orbits the sun.
It's but one of the 16 super Earths discovered by HARPS and is similar to one discovered in 2007 (Gliese 581 d).
Along with the discovery of the rocky planets, the ESO team also found evidence of about 49 other rocky planets with 10-times the mass of Earth.
But only planet HD85512-B orbits well within the "habitable" zone. This area could possibly harbor life if water exists or the planet has at least 50 percent cloud cover.
As technology improves, more of these so-called exoplanets will increase the existing base of knowledge about deep space and foreign bodies. The 16 super Earths are the largest findings announced at one time by NASA and the ESO.
"In the coming ten to twenty years we should have the first list of potentially habitable planets in the Sun's neighborhood," said a lead researcher with the HARPS team according to a Gizmag report.
Even if these "alien planets" are found to contain life or evidence of water and cloud cover, the technology does not exist to travel such great distances. Still it is comforting to think humans are not alone in the dark abyss.