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Scientists discover planet Wolf 1061c that could sustain alien life

Researchers Managed To Measure The Star Around Which The Planet Orbits In Order To Gain A Clearer Picture Of The Existence Of Life There.

News Nation Bureau | Edited By : Bindiya Bhatt | Updated on: 21 Jan 2017, 05:44:54 PM
Wolf 1061c could be the next habitable planet after Earth (Representational picture)

Los Angeles:

Scientists have been making efforts to find out if life thrives in any planet other than our Earth. While making these efforts, astronomers have managed to find that an exoplanet, named Wolf 1061, which is located around 14 light years away from Earth. The Wolf 1061 is present within the habitable zone, the area where liquid water could exist on the surface of the celestial body.

Biologists, physicists, filmmakers and philosophers have been puzzled by the question whether Earthlings are alone in the universe.

While carrying out the research an astronomer at San Francisco State University in the US named Stephen Kane laid his focus of searching "habitable zones," regions where water could exist in a liquid state on the surface of the planet in the presence of sufficient atmospheric pressure. 

"The Wolf 1061 system is important because it is so close and that gives other opportunities to do follow-up studies to see if it does indeed have life," Kane said. 

A habitable zone on a planetary system was examined by Kane and his team. However, the proximity of Wolf 1061 to Earth was not only an attractive subject for Kane and his team. 

Researchers said a rocky planet called Wolf 1061c is one of the three known planets in the system and it is entirely within the habitable zone.

Researchers managed to measure the star around which the planet orbits in order to gain a clearer picture of the existence of life there.

Kane said when scientists look out for planets that could sustain life, they basically look for a planet having nearly identical properties to Earth.

“Simply put, the planet can’t be too close or too far from its parent star. A planet that’s too close would be too hot like Earth’s twin Venus. If it’s too far, it may be too cold and any water would freeze, which is what happens on Mars,” Kane noted.

In order to sustain life, the planet, just like Earth, would have to exist in a sweet pot which is often referred to as the "Goldilocks zone" where conditions are just perfect for life.

Kane said the planet cannot be too far or too close to its parent star. If it is too close, it would be too hot. Similarly, if it is too far, it will be too cold and would freeze water, what exactly happens on Mars.

Conversely, a "runaway greenhouse effect" can take place when planets warm and the heat gets trapped in the atmosphere, what exactly happens on Venus.

According to NASA, scientists believe that Venus was once home to oceans, but because of its proximity the Sun, it became too warm that all the water evaporated.

Since water vapour is extremely effective in trapping in heat, it made the surface of the planet even hotter. The surface temperature on Venus now reaches around 471 degrees Celsius. 

"It is close enough to the star where it is looking suspiciously like a runaway greenhouse," said Kane. 

As Wolf 1061c is closer to the inner edge of the habitable zone, possibility is that the planet has an atmosphere more similar to Venus.

Kane and his team also found that unlike Earth, which witnesses climate changes due to the slow variations on its orbit around the Sun, Wolf 1061c’s orbit changes at a much faster rate. It may mean that the climate there could be quite chaotic.

Kane said life is possible on Wolf 1061c under one possibility - the short time scales over which Wolf 1061c’s orbit changes could be enough that it could actually cool the planet off.

But fully understanding what’s happening on the planet’s surface will take more research, he added.The findings are forthcoming in the Astrophysical Journal in a paper titled “Characterization of the Wolf 1061 Planetary System”.

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First Published : 21 Jan 2017, 01:24:00 PM

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