Scientists from the University of Granada (UGR) have discovered that the star GJ 273, one of the closest to planet Earth and known as Luyten, houses a planetary system as complex as the Solar System itself, and could have the ability to harbor life.

In an article published in the prestigious international journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the researchers show the complexity of the planetary system around the star Luyten, which could be formed by multiple planets, smaller body reservoirs, “And could even house water, as a result of the statistics and simulations we have carried out, although we do not yet have other direct evidence ”, explains Francisco J. Pozuelos, researcher at the University of Liege (Belgium) and main author of the publication.

This complexity of the Luyten planetary system, similar to that of the Solar System, makes it an excellent candidate for searching for traces of life with future space missions.

A planetary system with two confirmed planets

The planetary system of the star Luyten is of special interest as it is the fourth planetary system closest to the Sun which orbits around a dwarf star M at 12.23 al (1 al, expressed as ‘light-year’, equals 9 and 12 zeros behind kilometers) and houses a planet in the habitable zone, just behind Proxima Centauri (at about 4.24 al), Ross-128 (at 10.99 al) and ´ GJ 1061 (at 11.96 al). The system has two confirmed planets (named GJ 273b and GJ 273c) and two others to be confirmed (whose name is GJ 273d and GJ 273e).

The latter have been analyzed in this work and, according to their authors, the global dynamic analysis including these two candidate planets makes the system highly stable and, therefore, highly probable.

In this scenario, the authors predict that these two candidates would have somewhat smaller masses than Neptune, ranging between 9 and 12 times the mass of Earth, which in astrophysical jargon is known as ‘mini-Neptunes’.

Two Earth-like planets

Furthermore, of the already confirmed planets, GJ 273c has a mass similar to that of Earth, while GJ 273b is considered a super-Earth. The latter is interesting, since its orbit is close to the inner edge of its host star’s habitable zone and suffers from tidal warming (the same phenomenon that tides exist on Earth due to gravitational interaction with the Moon and the Sun).

As Juan Carlos Suárez, a scientist at the UGR and co-author of this work, explains, “Tidal warming makes GJ 273b a highly interesting planet, since this makes it compatible with the development and existence of a biosphere.”

Another similarity to the complex Solar System is the presence of deposits of smaller bodies, as the researchers predict. These are asteroids such as those found in the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter) or the Kuiper belt (beyond Neptune) in the Solar System, whose impact on the presence of water or the production of organic products It could be important, as it is postulated for the Solar System.

Scientists predict such deposits around Luyten, which, if confirmed, could play an important role in the emergence and maintenance of life in GJ 273b.

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