Red dwarf sparks interest as potential locale for life

Ross 128 b
This artist’s impression shows the temperate planet Ross 128 b, with its red dwarf parent star in the background. (ESO Illustration)

A red dwarf star that was previously thought to be the source of a weird signal from aliens turns out to have a temperate Earth-sized planet, astronomers reported today.

The “Weird! Signal,” detected this summer, turned out to be nothing more than earthly interference. In contrast, the planet known Ross 128 b is very real, and it’s only 11 light-years away.

That makes it the second-closest exoplanet thought to have temperate conditions. What’s more, the planet orbits a star that’s less active than the closer-in planet, Proxima Centauri b, which could make Ross 128 b a better bet for life’s presence.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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