Scientists Discover Habitable Planet Surprisingly Close

If the proverbial poop hits the fan here on Earth, scientists think they’ve discovered a habitable planet relatively nearby — we just need to jump in a rocket on a 31 light-year journey. In a new post published in the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal earlier this month, a team from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy discovered a planet in the habitable zone of Wolf 1069, a red dwarf star in the constellation Cygnus.

The planet – now known as Wolf 1069 b – is about the same size as Earth and is neither too hot nor too cold to support what we would consider life. “When we analyzed the data from the star Wolf 1069, we found a clear, low-amplitude signal from what appears to be a planet about Earth’s mass. It orbits the star in 15.6 days at a distance equal to is at one-fifteenth of the separation between the Earth and the Sun,” lead author Diana Kossakowski said about the discovery.

Just because Wolf 1069 b is in the habitable zone doesn’t automatically mean it’s capable of staying alive. It would need water and other minerals to live. Using models built during the study, researchers have discovered that it’s possible the planet could carry liquid water to a significant portion facing its star, where temperatures can reach as high as 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The planet is also unique in that one half of the body experiences eternal day, as it constantly looks at its star, while the other side of the planet is eternal night.

As it stands, Wolf 1069 b is the sixth closest exoplanet to Earth and is next to Proxima Centauri. b and the TRAPPIST-1 systems as celestial bodies most likely to support life. “We will probably have to wait another ten years for this,” Kossakowski added in her statement. “While it is critical that we develop our facilities as most of the closest potentially habitable worlds are only detected via the RV method.”

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