Astronomer Searches For Signs Of Life On Exoplanet Wolf 1061


A San Francisco State University astronomer has published a research on exoplanet Wolf 1061, in the attempt to find life outside Earth. The paper examines life conditions on the exoplanet, which should have very similar properties to Earth as to sustain life, including a characterization of the host star.

The research is published in the non-peer reviewed journal arXiv.

Wolf 1061 In The Habitable Zone

Habitable areas are zones where there could be water in liquid state on the planet's surface, without which life as we know it is impossible. This characteristic is strictly correlated with atmospheric pressure, which should be within the conditions of supporting life.

The researcher, Stephen Kane, and his team, investigated the habitable zone on a planetary system found 14 light-years away from Earth. The research, now published in the open journal, will be featured in the Astrophysical Journal, under the title "Characterization of the Wolf 1061 Planetary System." There have been other researches carried out as to better assess the possibility of Wolf 1061 to sustain life.

"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," noted the researcher.

There's more to the decision of examining Wolf 1061 than the convenience of location. One of the planets in the solar system, Wolf 1061c, is located inside the habitable zone. Researchers measured the star of the solar system, which led them to the conclusion that there is a possibility for life to exist on that planet.

Every time researchers attempt to find a planet that could sustain life, they look for a very similar one to Earth – right in the Goldilocks zone. Goldilocks zone is used in the astronomical field to describe a habitable zone, where there is water in liquid form and enough atmospheric pressure. The name Goldilocks comes from the fairy tale, where a child, from among three items, chooses the one that is "just right" for her – not being too big or too small, or too cold or too hot.

The Quest For Life In Space

When looking for another habitable planet, scientists try to find a place where the basic conditions of life are all met, not being located too close or too far from the star it orbits around. According to data from Kepler, there could be 40 billion planets in the Milky Way with a size similar to the Earth's, orbiting around stars.

An example of the importance of location when it comes to supporting life is Venus, which scientists believe used to have oceans once. However, because of being so close to the sun, a runaway greenhouse effect occurred, trapping the planet's heat inside its atmospheric lifecycle. Consequently, being too far from the sun could make the water freeze, which again, would make life impossible.

As part of the research, the scientists concluded that the climate in Wolf1061c could be a little chaotic, and the changes in temperature could be more accelerated compared with the ones on Earth.

"It could cause the frequency of the planet freezing over or heating up to be quite severe," noted Kane.

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