“Super Earth” has officially been spotted in a faraway solar system, bringing with it much speculation regarding the possibility for future human colonization. According to CNET, further details have recently surfaced regarding the newly discovered Wo1061lf c, which scientists are calling the closest planet that could support human life.
The news outlet noted that despite “most potentially habitable exoplanets [being located] at least hundreds of light-years away, Wolf 1061c is just next door, galactically speaking.”
The newly spotted Super Earth, as reported last week by the Inquisitr, is one of three planets that circle the Wolf 1061 red dwarf star located 14 light-years from our planet. Super Earth, in particular, takes 18 days to complete its orbit around its sun.
Duncan Wright, a researcher with Australia’s University of New South Wales (UNSW) team that is credited with the discovery, clarified that Super Earth inhabits what is known as the “Goldilocks zone” of the older sun, a location that gives the planet the perfect temperature for liquid water. This, Wright noted, makes life theoretically possible.
“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,” said Wright, whose study on the newly spotted Super Earth is set to be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. “While a few other planets have been found that orbit stars closer to us than Wolf 1061, those planets are not considered to be remotely habitable.”
Wright also noted that the recently spotted planet’s discovery is particularly exciting because its own sun is very calm when compared to other more traditional red dwarf stars. These older stars are often characterized by their extremely volatile nature, which can include dangerous x-ray bursts and superflares, he said. Super Earth’s sun’s relative stability could be indicative that it is a relatively older system.
“After looking at several thousand planetary candidates we found that… Sun is a particularly quiet star, even quieter than your average Sun-like star,” said Wright.
The UNSW research team spotted Super Earth using data collected from the HARPS spectograph on ESO’s 3.6-inch telescope, which is located in La Silla, Chile. It was found, according to TechWorm, using a radial velocity technique that involves monitoring a celestial body’s movement toward or away from earth to indicate the “tug” of a planet, and thus helps shed light on its size.
This particular super planet is believed to be 4.3-times the size of our own world.
Wright’s co-author Rob Wittenmyer, meanwhile, revealed that “the close proximity of the [neighboring] planets to [Super Earth] means there is a good chance these planets may pass across the face of the star,” per Sci-News. “If they do, then it may be possible to study the atmospheres of these planets in [the] future to see whether they would be conducive to life.”
The bad news is that scientists believe it could take a minimum of 14 years to journey to the Wolf 1061c — which is located 126 trillion kilometers away. This is compounded, unfortunately, by the fact that this time lapse is only possible by traveling at the speed of light, which is still not scientifically possible. By comparison, however, the Gliese 667 Cc planet sits at 22 light-years away, while other potentially habitable planets, CNET noted, “tend to be hundreds or thousands of light-years away.”
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