But what's remarkable about Ross 128 is that it is especially calm and comfortable - it doesn't seem to be given to such outbursts, meaning that the chance of supporting life on the planet is vastly increased.
That makes Ross 128 b the second closest potentially habitable exoplanet to Earth we know about after Proxima b, a rocky world that orbits around the nearest star to our Solar System, Proxima Centauri.
Additionally, red dwarf "flare" stars like Ross 128 and Proxima Centauri periodically erupt showers of ultraviolet and X-ray radiation, which would be harmful to Earth-like lifeforms. The research team estimates that Ross 128 b receives just 38 percent more radiation than Earth does and should have equilibrium temperatures between minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit and 69 degrees Fahrenheit.
"While the scientists involved in this discovery consider Ross 128b to be a temperate planet, uncertainty remains as to whether the planet lies inside, outside, or on the cusp of the habitable zone, where liquid water may exist on a planet's surface".
They must find oxygen to figure out if it could be a good host planet for human colonisation or whether life already exists there.
The planet has been able to achieve its temperate climate because it orbits an inactive red dwarf star.
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Artist's impression of the planet Ross 128 b.
Although discoveries of this type are relatively uncommon at present, it is likely that temperate exoplanets such as these will be found in greater number with advancing technology.
Bonfils and his co-authors haven't actually seen the planet, but they were able to measure the wavelenths of light emitting from the star, and, they suspect, the nearby planet is between 1.35 and two time the mass of Earth. "Ross 128 is one of the quietest stars of our sample and, although it is a little further away from us (2.6x), it makes for an excellent alternative target". In June, one was discovered in the orbit of GJ 625, around 21 light-years away, and in August, an exoplanet was spotted in a system that's just 16 light-years away.
For now, the team will be searching for other nearby planets just like Ross 128b within a distance of sixteen light years away. The observing target list included a couple stars that had exoplanets, as well as a few that didn't-including, at the time, Ross 128.
Ross 128 b's red dwarf star Ross 128, is particuarly quiet, according to experts. If we have, it'll not only offer the potential to see what another planet like our own looks like - but potentially to meet the aliens that live there, or to move there ourselves.
The next step is for astronomers to study the atmospheric chemistry of exoplanets like Ross 128 b using powerful new telescopes such as the ESO's Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) and NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, which will begin operations within the next few years. Depending on how you run the numbers, Ross 128b could be outside, inside, or at the inner edge of its habitable zone.