Feb 06, 2023 at 10:05 PMUpdate: 8 minutes ago
Astronomers have discovered a planet outside our solar system that may be home to life. This is exoplanet Wolf 1069 b, which orbits the red dwarf star Wolf 1069. The planet is ‘only’ 31 light years from Earth. Wolf 1069 b is slightly larger than our planet and rocky like Earth.
The one found by astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany is in the so-called habitable zone of its star. In theory, this means that there could be liquid water and therefore possibly life.
The scientists also calculated that Wolf 1069 b orbits its star in just 15.6 Earth days. So a year has passed. The distance between the exoplanet and the red dwarf star is fifteen times smaller than the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
You would think that is why it is much too hot on Wolf 1069 b. Yet that is not the case. The red dwarf star is much smaller than our sun. The planet receives about 65 percent of the solar radiation that the Earth receives.
The scientists suspect that Wolf 1069 b also has an atmosphere. That would mean that the temperature can rise to a pleasant 13 degrees Celsius.
Always day or always night
The big difference with the Earth is that Wolf 1069 b always has the same side facing its star. As a result, it is always day on one side of the planet and always night on the other side.
In the coming period, the astronomers will investigate the exoplanet even better. For example, they want to know whether Wolf 1069 b has a magnetic field like the Earth.
In the future, they really want to look for possible life on the planet. However, according to the researchers, it will probably take another ten years before they have the technology for this.
In any case, Wolf 1069 b can join a special list for the time being. So far, only a small number of exoplanets that may be suitable for life have been discovered. Trappist-1 e and Proxima Centauri b are two of those candidates.
The findings have been published in the scientific journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
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