In a breakthrough, astronomers have discovered closest ever exoplanet that can potentially support life as the planet is located in goldilocks zone in which water can exist in the liquid state. The planet is nearly four times the size of our Earth and is revolving around a dwarf star named Wolf 1061 located nearly 14 light years away.
Lead researcher Duncan Wright from the University of New South Wales, Australia said that the discovery of closest ever habitable planet in goldilocks zone is very fascinating and chances are there that we might find some lifeform one day. Apart from it, astronomers have identified two other planets revolving around Wolf 10621 that can support life.
The three planets are nearly 1.4, 4.3 and 5.2 times the mass of our Earth and complete orbits in 5, 18 and 67 days respectively. Smallest and largest planet among the three are on edges of the goldilocks zone where chances of water existing in the liquid state is considerably less, but the second planet with 4 times the mass of Earth has very chances to support liquid water, hence life.
The remarkable discovery was made with help with data collected from the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) spectrograph on the European Southern Observatory’s 3.6 metre telescope in Chile. “Our team has developed a new technique that improves the analysis of the data from this precise, purpose-built, planet-hunting instrument, and we have studied more than a decade’s worth of observations of Wolf 1061,” said Chris Tinney, head of the Exoplanetary Science at UNSW.
“Our team has developed a new technique that improves the analysis of the data from this precise, purpose-built, planet-hunting instrument, and we have studied more than a decade’s worth of observations of Wolf 1061,” said Chris Tinney, head of the Exoplanetary Science at UNSW. “These three planets right next door to us join the small but growing ranks of potentially habitable rocky worlds orbiting nearby stars cooler than our Sun,” said Tinney.
According to researchers, the find is significant since most the habitable exoplanet are found thousands of light years away, however, it is the first time that astronomers have found planet in goldilocks zone located just 14 light years away. Before this discovery, the closest habitable planet named Gliese 667Cc was identified about 22 light years far from earth.. It orbits a red dwarf star every 28 days and is at least 4.5 times as massive as Earth.
“The close proximity of the planets around Wolf 1061 means there is a good chance these planets may pass across the face of the star. If they do, then it may be possible to study the atmospheres of these planets in future to see whether they would be conducive to life,” said Rob Wittenmyer of UNSW.
The study appeared in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.