Red dwarfs are stars smaller than the Sun, accounting for at least 100 billion red dwarfs in Milky Way alone. All are- abundant in the neighborhood around the Sun and important targets in the search for nearby extra-solar planets and extraterrestrial life.

But, as they are cool and don’t reflect much light, it is difficult for scientists to study them. Recently, scientists discovered s super-Earth planet near the habitable zone of a red dwarf star only 37 light-years from the Earth.

This is the first discovery by a new instrument on the Subaru Telescope. The Astrobiology Center in Japan developed the instrument to search for signs of planets around red dwarf stars. The instrument, called IRD for Infrared Doppler, is mounted on Subaru Telescope.

The newly detected earth-sized planet- Ross 508 b- is four times the mass of the Earth circling the star Ross 508, located 37 light-years away in the constellation Serpens. It orbits its star in only 11 Earth days and lies at the inner edge of the habitable zone around its host star.

Interestingly, there are indications that the orbit is elliptical, meaning that the planet would be in the habitable zone for part of the orbit. In this region, conditions would be right for liquid water to exist on the planet’s surface. Whether or not there is water or life are questions of further study.

Brunei Sato, a Professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the principal investigator in this search, comments, “It has been 14 years since the start of IRD’s development. We have continued our development and research with the hope of finding a planet exactly like Ross 508 b.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Hiroki Harakawa, Takuya Takarada, et al. A super-Earth orbiting near the inner edge of the habitable zone around the M4.5 dwarf Ross 508. Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan, 2022; DOI: 10.1093/pasj/psac044