Scientists have just discovered the closest habitable planet outside our solar system and it’s a ‘Super Earth’
Researchers have made an extremely important discovery by finding a Super Earth located just 14 light years away from our Sun. Wolf 1061c is officially the closest habitable planet outside of our solar system and has a mass four times larger than that of Earth. According to astronomers, Wolf 1061c sits within the habitable zone which means that it’s very likely that the planet has liquid water and the necessary conditions to support life as we know it. While researchers have found in the past planets that are much closer than Wolf 1061c, those planets are not considered as candidates to be habitable according to astronomers.
This Super Earth is the closest potentially habitable planet discovered outside of our solar system and increases the hopes of discovering in the near future a planet that could have developed life on its surface.
‘It is a particularly exciting find because all three planets are of low enough mass to be potentially rocky and have a solid surface, ‘said lead study author Dr Duncan Wright of the University Of New South Wales (UNSW).’
‘The middle planet, Wolf 1061c, sits within the ‘Goldilocks’ zone where it might be possible for liquid water – and maybe even life – to exist.’
‘It is fascinating to look out at the vastness of space and think a star so very close to us – a near neighbor – could host a habitable planet.’
The three newly detected planets orbit a small, cool and relatively stable star. Their masses are approximately 1.4, 4.3 and 5.2 times that of 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,’ co-author Dr Rob Wittenmyer added.
‘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.’
Researchers estimate that the largest of the three planets, Wolf 1061d falls just outside the outer boundary of the habitable zone but is also likely to be a rocky planet. The smaller planet, Wolf 1061b is too close to the star to be habitable leaving Wolf 1061c as he perfect candidate for potential life or colonization in the distant future.
The latest discovery was made by the Harps spectrograph on the European Southern Observatory’s 12ft (3.6 metre) telescope in La Silla in Chile.
Commenting on the discovery of Wolf 1061c, Professor Chris Tinney said: ‘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.’
‘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.’
According to writings in Popular Mechanics, “The new planet was found by using the radial velocity technique, which involves monitoring the red shift or blue shift (moving away or toward Earth) of a star to indicate the tug of an unseen planet. It uses the HARPS Spectrograph instrument to enable the detection of small planets, rather than the large, Jupiter-sized worlds typically found by radial velocity. “