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Astronomers Find an Exoplanet Potentially Habitable for Humans

Astronomers Find An Earth-like Planet Close to Us
Wolf 1069 b, Earth-like Planet. Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/Daniel Rutter

Scientists have made an exciting discovery of a new Earth-like planet named Wolf 1069 b. This planet is 31.2 light years away from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. It orbits around a red dwarf star approximately one-fifth the size of our Sun. Wolf 1069 b is the closest to home than any other similarly sized world yet known.

Its location places it within what we call the circumstellar habitable zone – or the range in which water can stay in liquid form on a planet’s surface. This has raised hopes of similar discoveries between the earth-like planet and space.

The Wolf 1069 b was discovered by a team of astronomers led by MPIA scientist Diana Kossakowski.

“Although the rotation of this planet, named Wolf 1069 b, is probably tidally locked to its path around the parent star, the team is optimistic it may provide durable habitable conditions across a wide area of its dayside. The absence of any apparent stellar activity or intense UV radiation increases the chances that Wolf 1069b could have retained much of its atmosphere,” stated the release.

Properties of Wolf 1069 b

Wolf 1069 b is an exoplanet located in the constellation Cygnus, approximately 31 light-years away from Earth.

It has a mass of 1.26 +/-0.21 Earth masses and a radius of 1.08 Earth radii. This makes it slightly larger than our planet. Wolf 1069 b’s surface temperature is estimated to be 250 +/-7 K (or -23 +/-7°C). This makes it colder than most other exoplanets found so far.

Its semi-major axis is 0.0672 +/-0.0014 au, and its orbital period is 15.564+/-0.015 days, which means that it takes the planet less than 16 days to orbit its host star once.

Wolf 1069 b was discovered by observing the radial velocity of its host star, which allowed scientists to detect the planet’s presence indirectly through its gravitational influence on the star’s motion.

All of the above information is based on the study originally published in by Cornell University.

Is Wolf 1069 b habitable?

Without an atmosphere, the average temperature of Wolf 1069 b is estimated at 250 Kelvin (-23 °C). That is certainly not hospitable for life based on the information published in the original research.

However, computer simulations using complex climate models to consider the planet’s possible atmosphere, surface type, and other conditions suggest that with an Earth-like atmosphere, its mean temperature could rise to 286 Kelvin (+13°C). That is well within the range needed to maintain liquid water over a large region of its surface.

For this reason, whilst more extensive research is required to verify whether Wolf 1069 b has all the right conditions for habitability, all current evidence suggests that it could indeed harbor life.

This planet’s unique rotation leads to an unprecedented day/night cycle: the same side always faces its star in orbit. This means eternal daylight on one half and perpetual nightfall on the other.

Despite this peculiarity, Wolf 1069 b remains a promising prospect for further exploration into habitability.

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