Researchers Analyzing Nearby 'Super-Earth' In Search Of Life


Researchers are on a quest to look for life in a nearby exoplanet which is in the "Goldilocks zone." This is basically the area in the galaxy where the conditions are apt for water's existence, a key element for life to be around.

The latest research is being spearheaded by Stephen Kane, an astronomer, who has shared new information on the "Super-Earth" aka Wolf 1061c.

This Super-Earth is situated in a galaxy that is almost 14 light years away from our solar system. It also happens to be our closest neighbour.

Kane shared that the Super-Earth is important because it resembles Earth and offers researchers the opportunity to conduct studies, which could potentially lead to the discovery of life on the exoplanet.

The Wolf 1061c: Habitable?

While the team has been aware of the Wolf 1061c's existence since 2015, whether it is located in the ideal habitable location — like Earth — has been unclear.

"The Wolf 1061 system is important because it is so close and that gives other opportunities to do follow-up studies to see if it does indeed have life," explained Kane.

He went on to elucidate that whenever researchers look for any planet that is able to bear life, the scientists are essentially seeking out a planet that is similar to Earth in many regards.

The exoplanet would need to be in the "Goldilocks zone" or the sweet spot where the environment is conducive to propagate life. The exoplanet can neither be too far nor too close to its main star.

The scientists also analyzed Wolf 1061c's dim M-dwarf star, also called Wolf 1061. It has been found that Wolf 1061 has the ideal setting for the exoplanet to have liquid water on it, just like Venus prior to it getting vaporized by the sun.

Kane shared that based on its nearness to the habitable area's inner edge, Wolf 1061c may be getting extremely hot even now.

Doug Vakoch, president of Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is not very optimistic that scientists will find signs of life in the Super-Earth. However, he feels the fact that a planet that is sort of like Earth and in such proximity is a great sign, especially in the human quest for life on alternate planets.

The researchers disclosed that the orbit of the exoplanet changes rather quickly, which suggests that the climate on the Super-Earth could be pretty chaotic.

The researchers's findings will be published in a paper entitled Characterization of the Wolf 1061 Planetary System in the Astrophysical Journal's upcoming issue.

Photo: NASA Blueshift | Flickr

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