Finding a livable world that is similar to Earth is one of the most intriguing objectives of extraterrestrial study. Astronomers have long been interested in finding another habitable planet other than Earth, and it appears that they have now arrived at a location appropriate for their search.
Astronomers have discovered a potentially habitable exoplanet just 31 light-years away from Earth. Known as Wolf 1069 b, the Earth-mass exoplanet 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," as per a release.
Therefore, the planet is one of a very small number of promising targets to look for biosignatures and signs of habitability. The findings have been published in Astronomy & Astrophysics.
"When we analysed the data of the star Wolf 1069, we discovered a clear, low-amplitude signal of what appeared to be a planet of roughly Earth mass. It orbits the star within 15.6 days at a distance equivalent to one-fifteenth of the separation between the Earth and the Sun," said Diana Kossakowski, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany and lead author on the new research.
The study suggests that, despite the close range, Wolf 1069 b only receives about 65% of the incident radiant power of what the Earth obtains from the Sun. Compared to solar properties, Wolf 1069 emits much less radiation, and its surface is cooler, making the star appear orange. These properties result in reduced heating power.
"As a result, the so-called habitable zone is shifted inward," Kossakowski explains. Therefore, planets around red dwarf stars such as Wolf 1069 can be habitable even though they are much closer than the Earth is to the Sun. Co-author Jonas Kemmer from Heidelberg University adds, "The CARMENES instrument was built for the very purpose of making it easier to discover as many potentially habitable worlds as possible."