Potentially habitable Earth-sized exoplanet discovered

This Earth-sized exoplanet is a rocky planet that may have an atmosphere, making it one of the few targets to look for biological signals.

Astronomers have discovered a rocky Earth-mass exoplanet orbiting within the habitable zone relative to its star, suitable for searching for signs of life.

A team of astronomers led by Diana Kossakowski of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany in a paper Published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, describe a planet orbiting its host star, the red dwarf Wolf 1069, within the habitable zone, which is the region around the star where liquid water can exist on the surface of the planet. .

The planet, named Wolf 1069b, is likely a rocky planet and has an atmosphere, making it one of the few promising targets for searching for biological signals and conditions conducive to life.

Finding low-mass planets is a big challenge, astronomers have discovered more than 5,000 exoplanets to date, but only 1.5% of them have masses less than two Earth masses. And only about a dozen of them are in the so-called habitable zone around their star.

What does habitable mean?

Kossakowski and his team, under the CARMENES program, a project used by the Calar Alto Observatory in Spain, developed a special instrument to examine low-mass stars for regular fluctuations, such as those caused by orbiting planets. .

When analyzing data from the red dwarf star Wolf 1069b, 31 light-years away, astronomers found “a clear low-amplitude signal” indicating a planet of Earth-sized proportions.

The planet “orbits the star in almost 15.6 days at a distance 15 times less than the distance between the Sun and Earth“, explains Kossakowski in a release. Despite its small distance from its central star, Wolf 1069b receives about 65% of the light and heat our planet receives from the Sun, making it potentially hospitable. In addition, its rotation is synchronized with the rotation of Wolf 1069b, that is, both always rotate to the same side, which means that it experiences eternal day in one hemisphere and in the other side it is always night.

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Water, temperature and atmosphere

In addition to liquid water, the average surface temperature of the planet it is also a factor that determines whether a planet can be habitable. According to the scientists’ calculations, if Wolf 1069b is a dry and rocky planet, its surface temperature should be -23°C, but if it were surrounded by an Earth atmosphere, the average temperature could reach 13°C, according to computer simulations com show climate models. In this way, water would remain liquid for much of the planet’s dayside.

Likewise, this atmosphere can also protect you from high-energy electromagnetic radiation and particles emanating from space or the central star. As a red dwarf, Wolf 1069b emits relatively weak radiation, so the newly discovered planet’s atmosphere would have been preserved.

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