Astronomers believe that they have discovered a planet which could be as habitable as the Earth. This planet is located outside of our solar system.
According to astronomers, Wolf 1061c sits within the habitable zone which means that it’s very likely that the planet has liquid water and the necessary conditions to support life as we know it. While researchers have found in the past planets that are much closer than Wolf 1061c, those planets are not considered as candidates to be habitable according to astronomers.
A simulation of the orbital configuration of the Wolf 1061 system. The orbits for the planets b, c and d (ordered from the inner planet to the outer) have periods of 4.9 days, 17.9 days and 67.2 days. In the simulation we show the planet orbits as all lying in a single plane. The planetary habitable zone around the star is marked in green – the colours grade from red (where a planet would be too hot), through green (where the surface of a planet could sustain liquid water), through to blue (where a planet would be too cold).
This Super Earth is the closest potentially habitable planet discovered outside of our solar system and increases the hopes of discovering in the near future a planet that could have developed life on its surface.
‘It is a particularly exciting find because all three planets are of low enough mass to be potentially rocky and have a solid surface, ‘said lead study author Dr Duncan Wright of the University Of New South Wales (UNSW).’
‘The middle planet, Wolf 1061c, sits within the ‘Goldilocks’ zone where it might be possible for liquid water – and maybe even life – to exist.’
‘It is fascinating to look out at the vastness of space and think a star so very close to us – a near neighbor – could host a habitable planet.’
‘The close proximity of the planets around Wolf 1061 means there is a good chance these planets may pass across the face of the star,’ co-author Dr Rob Wittenmyer added.
‘If they do, then it may be possible to study the atmospheres of these planets in future to see whether they would be conducive to life.’
Researchers estimate that the largest of the three planets, Wolf 1061d falls just outside the outer boundary of the habitable zone but is also likely to be a rocky planet. The smaller planet, Wolf 1061b is too close to the star to be habitable leaving Wolf 1061c as he perfect candidate for potential life or colonization in the distant future.
The latest discovery was made by the Harps spectrograph on the European Southern Observatory’s 12ft (3.6 metre) telescope in La Silla in Chile.