Astronomers find what could be a habitable world 31 light-years away
What makes this discovery especially intriguing is that Wolf 1069 b orbits in its star's habitable zone, making it an ideal candidate for the potential existence of liquid water on its surface.
The large terrestrial observatories and space telescopes have allowed the discovery of interesting worlds and recently an exoplanet was found that could be habitable and would not be so far from Earth.
Astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPI) in Germany have discovered an Earth-mass exoplanet orbiting in the habitable zone of the red dwarf star Wolf 1069, which could offer long-lasting habitability conditions.
“Although the rotation of this planet, named Wolf 1069 b, is probably linked to its trajectory around the progenitor star, the team is optimistic that it offers lasting habitability conditions,” explains the MPI.
An exoplanet that could host life 😲 Astronomers @mpi_astro find rare Earth-mass rocky planet suitable for the search for signs of life. https://t.co/v3EALqUhTF #exoplanet #reddwarf #Wolf1069b pic.twitter.com/aHpDplQuDD— Max Planck Society (@maxplanckpress) February 3, 2023
The absence of apparent stellar activity or intense ultraviolet radiation raises the chances that the planet named Wolf 1069 b may have retained much of its atmosphere. Therefore, according to the MPI, it is one of the few promising targets for the search for habitability markers and biosignals.
“When we analyzed the data from the star Wolf 1069, we discovered a clear, low-amplitude signal from what appears to be a roughly Earth-mass planet . It orbits the star in 15.6 days at a distance equivalent to one fifteenth of the separation between the Earth and the Sun”, explains Diana Kossakowski, from the MPIA and lead author of the article published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Despite its closeness, Wolf 1069 b only receives about 65% of the incident radiant power that Earth receives from the Sun. Compared to solar properties, Wolf 1069 emits much less radiation and its surface is cooler, giving the star an orange appearance.
These properties translate into reduced heat output. “As a result, the so-called habitable zone moves inland,” says Kossakowski. Therefore, planets around red dwarf stars like Wolf 1069 may be habitable even though they are much closer than Earth is to the Sun.
What makes this discovery especially intriguing is that Wolf 1069 b is potentially a rocky world, about 1.26 the mass of Earth and 1.08 the size. Wolf 1069 b also orbits in its star's habitable zone, making it an ideal candidate for the potential existence of liquid water on its surface.
31 light years away
With a distance of 31 light-years, Wolf 1069 b is the sixth closest Earth-mass planet to its host star's habitable zone. Due to its favorable prospects for habitability, it is part of a small and illustrious group of targets, such as Proxima Centauri by TRAPPIST-1 e, to search for biosignatures. Unfortunately, such observations are currently outside the scope of astronomical research.
Another special feature of this planet is that its rotation is likely tied to its orbit around its host star. In other words, one rotation on its axis lasts the same as one complete revolution. Since the same side is always facing the star, it experiences eternal day, while in the opposite hemisphere there is always night.