Astronomers discovered an exoplanet 31 light years away from Earth that could be habitable

A team of experts from the Max Planck Institute in Germany found it and named it Wolf 1069b. It is similar in size to the terrestrial globe.

At 31 light-years away, astronomers have identified a world the size of Earth that would have all the conditions to be habitable.

It is the exoplanet Wolf 1069b that orbits its star at a distance where temperatures could allow liquid water to exist on the surface, neither so hot that it burns nor so cold that it freezes. The newly discovered exoplanet is 1.36 times the mass of Earth and is one of 5,200 worlds found outside our Solar System.

“When we analyzed the data from the star Wolf 1069, we discovered a clear, low-amplitude signal from what appears to be a planet about the mass of Earth,” said astronomer Diana Kossakowski of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA). in Germany.

“As we analyzed the data from the star Wolf 1069, we discovered a clear low-amplitude signal indicative of a planet with a mass similar to Earth. It orbits around the star in 15.6 days at a distance that is one fifteenth of the distance between the Earth and the Sun,” added the expert who published the finding in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Despite the small distance, Wolf 1069 b receives only about 65% of the radiant energy that Earth receives from the sun. Compared to the Sun, Wolf 1069 emits much less radiation and its surface is cooler, making the star appear orange. These properties lead to a lower heating capacity. “As a result, the so-called habitable zone is shifted inwards,” explains Kossakowski. That’s why planets around red dwarf stars like Wolf 1069 can support life, despite being much closer to the Sun than Earth.

Co-author Jonas Kemmer from the University of Heidelberg adds: “The CARMENES instrument was built precisely to facilitate the discovery of as many potentially habitable worlds as possible.” Of course, it takes more than liquid water to create a habitable planet. As on Earth, an atmosphere that causes a natural greenhouse effect can help raise the average temperature above the 250 Kelvin (-23 °C) recorded for Wolf 1069 b. This value is for a simple bare rocky planet. Astronomers have calculated that with an atmosphere similar to Earth’s, the average temperature could rise by as much as 286 Kelvin (+13°C), so water remains liquid over a large area on the side of the planet facing the Earth. stars.

detection method
All the planets in our Solar System orbit around the Sun. “Planets that are outside the Sun and that orbit around other stars are called exoplanets. Exoplanets are very difficult to see directly with telescopes. They are hidden by the brilliant glow of the stars that they orbit around. Therefore, astronomers use other ways to detect and study these distant planets. They look for exoplanets and study their impact on the stars they orbit,” explains NASA.

The search for exoplanets is hampered by the limitations of our current technology. Our primary methods for finding exoplanets are much better at finding large worlds than small ones. That’s because they’re based on indirect signs, like the effects an exoplanet has on its host star.

“When the planet transits in front of the star, it covers its light a bit. That means the star will appear slightly less bright when the planet passes in front of it. Astronomers can observe how a star’s brightness changes during a transit. This can help them figure out the size of the planet,” NASA clarifies.

Thus, the transit method detects the very faint and regular dips in starlight as an exoplanet orbits between us and its star; and the radial velocity method detects minute changes in the wavelength of light as the star moves very slightly in place due to the gravitational interaction with the exoplanet.

“By studying the time between transits, astronomers can also find out how far the planet is from its star. This gives us information about the temperature of the planet. If a planet is at the right temperature, it could contain liquid water, an essential ingredient for life.”