Astronomers found an exoplanet, Wolf 1061, that may have the suitable conditions necessary to sustain life. Stephen Kane, astronomer at San Francisco State University, published a study in which he analyzed the conditions on the exoplanet and he also characterized the host star. The research is to be found in the journal arXiv.
Wolf 1061 is a planetary system found only 14 light-years away from Earth. The researcher and his team analyzed the habitable zone of this planet. A habitable zone is an area where water can be found in liquid state on the planet’s surface, condition known to be mandatory for the sustaining of life. The presence of liquid water is strictly related to the presence of atmospheric pressure, another important condition for the existence of life forms.
These studies are important, since they may find another planet where life is possible. The decision to analyze Wolf 1061 more thoroughly is not only due to its proximity, but also due to its similarities to Earth and the actual possibility it has to sustain life.
When astronomers look for planets that may host life forms, they look for planets similar to Earth that are located right in the Goldilocks zone. This means an area with the right amount of atmospheric pressure that allows for the presence of liquid water. The name comes from the well known fairytale where the protagonist chooses exactly what is suitable for her and nothing in between.
It is the same case regarding astronomy. When searching for life forms on other planets, they look for the planet with the perfect conditions, located not too close or not too far from the star it orbits around. Kepler provided data that there may be around 40 billion planets almost the same size as Earth that are orbiting around stars.
The importance of the optimal distance from the sun is displayed by Venus, which scientists proved it used to host oceans. However, because it was too close to the sun, a greenhouse effect occurred and all the planet’s heat was trapped inside the atmosphere. Also, if the planet is too far away from the sun, the water will freeze.
As a conclusion of the research, the conditions on Wolf 1061 appear to be a little chaotic for the sustaining of life. The sudden shifts in temperature may cause either the freezing or the heating of the planet, making the exoplanet unsuitable for life.
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