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Astronomers find what could be a habitable world “just around the corner” – Enséñame de Ciencia

Astronomers find what could be a habitable world “just around the corner” – Enséñame de Ciencia

An artist's rendering of Wolf 1069 b orbiting a red dwarf star. (Source: NASA/Ames Research Center/Daniel Rutter).

Astronomers are currently searching for habitable worlds close enough to study them. However, the task is not easy because detecting exoplanets is very complex. A promising planet has recently been discovered, where possible signs of life can be explored.

A team of astronomers has announced the discovery of Wolf 1069 b, a planet with a mass similar to Earth and orbiting its star at the right distance for liquid water to exist on its surface, making it known as a potentially habitable world. This rare exoplanet is located only 31 light-years away, which at least opens up the hope of studying it later for astrobiological purposes.

“When we analyzed data from the star Wolf 1069, we detected a clear, low-amplitude signal from what appears to be a planet roughly the mass of Earth. “It orbits the star in 15.6 days at a distance equivalent to one-fifteenth the distance between Earth and the Sun.” Diana Kosakowski said in a statement: Lead author of the article.

Wolf 1069 b orbits closer to its host star than Earth and the Sun, but receives less radiation; Approximately 65% ​​of the incident radiation energy that Earth receives from the Sun, because the star is a small red dwarf, emits less energy than a star like the Sun, making the habitable area closer.

“As a result, the so-called habitable zone is shifting inward.” Kosakovsky mentions. This is how planets around red dwarf stars like Wolf 1069 can be habitable, even though they are much closer to the Sun than Earth.

Of course, scientists know very well that life doesn't just need liquid water. Therefore, potentially habitable, it does not at all guarantee the existence of ecosystems on our planet. The atmosphere is also very important. A clear example of this is Venus, which is very close to the habitable zone, but it is hellish due to its dense atmosphere.

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Astronomers suspect that Wolf 1069 b may be tidally locked in its path around its parent star, meaning it always shows the same face to Earth as the Moon. In this case, the favorable conditions are less, although the team is optimistic about the possibility of providing permanently habitable conditions in a large day-side area.

Although the odds are not high, this is very good news because most of the exoplanets discovered are giant, very cold/hot and gaseous. Of the more than 5,000 confirmed exoplanets, only about 1.5% have masses less than twice that of Earth. At a distance of 31 light-years, Wolf 1069 b is the sixth closest habitable planet in terms of Earth mass.

The results are published in the journal Astronomy and astrophysics.

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