Planets

Scientists find two nearby, Earth-sized planets

An illustration of 2 potentially habitable planets.
An illustration of two potentially habitable planets orbiting a small, cool star only 12.5 light-years away from Earth. Image: University of Göttingen, Institute for Astrophysics

This week, scientists announced the discovery of two potentially habitable planets orbiting a small, cool star only 12.5 light-years away, reports Axios' Miriam Kramer.

What they found: Researchers using the CARMENES instrument in Spain found the planets orbiting Teegarden’s star, which is only about 8% of the mass of our Sun. The planets are about the mass of Earth and orbit the star in its “habitable zone” — the theoretical orbit where a planet can sustain water on its surface. The new discovery will be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Scientists watch a new planet form

Image of a planet caught in the very act of formation around a dwarf star
Image from the SPHERE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope shows the first clear image of a planet caught in the very act of formation around the dwarf star PDS 70. Image: ESO/A. Müller et al.

For the first time, scientists have caught sight of a ring of dust and debris around a planet as it forms. The new results were published this week in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters, and they shed light on the process of planetary formation.

Why it matters: The disk surrounding the planet — named PDS 70 b — is viewed as a sign that moons could form around it, which is estimated to be about 4–17 times more massive than Jupiter.