Scientists have discovered a new potentially habitable planet, but half of it is in eternal darkness
Why is it important: A group of international astronomers have announced the discovery of an exoplanet that is very similar to Earth and close to Earth on a galactic scale. The newly discovered planet Wolf 1069b is about 1.26 times the mass of the Earth and 1.08 times its size. What’s even more intriguing is that it’s in the habitable zone of its host star, meaning water could exist on its surface, making it a potential home for alien lifeforms.
“When we analyzed data from the star Wolf 1069, we found a clear, low-amplitude signal of what appears to be a roughly Earth-mass planet,” said Diana Kossakowski, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany.
In accordance with IFLScienceAstronomers have discovered a new exoplanet that they think could be suitable for extraterrestrial life. The planet, named Wolf 1069b, orbits a red dwarf 31 light years from Earth and is located in the Milky Way galaxy. A year on this exoplanet is equivalent to almost half a month on Earth.
Despite being close to its parent star, the exoplanet doesn’t produce excruciatingly high temperatures. This is because the host star is much smaller than our Sun. The researchers say that Wolf 1069b receives only about 65 percent of the incident radiation power from what the Earth receives from the Sun.
Currently, Wolf 1069b is only 31 light-years away and is the sixth closest Earth-mass planet to its parent star in the habitable zone. The closest star to Earth is 4.2 light-years away, while the Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 light-years across and contains at least 100 billion stars.
In addition, Wolf 1069b is much closer to its parent star than the Earth is to the Sun. This means that Wolf 1069b does not rotate with respect to the red dwarf and always faces its stellar neighbor on the same side. Because of this, one side of the planet is illuminated while the other is permanently dark. The star-facing side of the exoplanet is likely to be around 13 degrees Celsius, hypothetically conducive to alien life if the exoplanet is indeed shrouded in an alien atmosphere.
Now scientists are looking forward to the completion of the construction of powerful next-generation telescopes that will be able to detect and analyze the atmospheres of distant exoplanets like this one. Unfortunately, that’s a decade or so away.