A computer simulations study carried out by scientists at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) suggests the existence of an Earth-like planet in a nearby star system Gliese 832 that is located just 16 light years away from Earth. According to researchers, this star system is 23 light-years closer than the Trappist-1 system.

Last year, scientists discovered the Trappist-1 system in the Universe—a finding that reignited mankind’s hope of discovering a planet able to sustain life on its surface. Scientists, however, believe that while planets in the Trappist system might fall within the habitable zone of the star, there are several other factors that make these planets less likely to sustain life than initially thought.

Gliese 832 star system

In the current study, the researchers were investigating the Gliese 832 star system using computer simulations for signs of additional exoplanets in the system. The results of this study suggested the existence of an Earth-like planet orbiting the Gliese 832 star at a distance of 0.25 to 2.0 astronomical unit (AU).

Gliese 832 is a red dwarf star, just under half the mass that of our Sun. The radius of Gliese 832 is also about half that of the Sun’s radius. According to astronomers, this red dwarf is orbited by two exoplanets—Gliese 832b and Gliese 832c. Gliese 832b is a gas giant and has a mass about 0.64 that of Jupiter’s mass. It orbits its host star at a distance of 3.53 AU.

Gliese 832c, on the other hand, is a super-Earth-like planet, potentially a rocky world, and having a mass 5 times that of Earth’s mass. It orbits its host star at a distance of 0.16 AU.

These two planets were discovered using radial velocity technique that attempts to detect any changes in the velocity of the host star, due to a change in direction of the gravitational pull from an unknown exoplanet.

Measuring the velocity of the star regularly helps determine if the star is under the influence of any orbiting planet or another heavenly body.

The new hypothetical world likely has a mass between 1 to 15 Earth's masses

Suman Satyal, UTA researcher and the lead author of the study, says an Earth-mass planet was injected in the simulated data for the Gliese 832 star system to identify a stable orbital configuration for the planet.

The team was able to create synthetic radial velocity curves of the known planets (832b and 832c) in the star system. The computations suggested that a new hypothetical alien world likely having a mass between 1 to 15 Earth's masses might be existing in this star system. The study also indicated that this exoplanet has probably maintained a stable orbit in the habitable zone of Gliese 832 star for more than one billion years.

The detailed findings of the study titled “Dynamics of a probable Earth-Like Planet in the GJ 832 System” have been published in the Astrophysical Journal.