This rare Earth-mass rocky planet could host life

Devdiscourse News Desk | Heidelberg | Updated: 03-02-2023 21:48 IST | Created: 03-02-2023 21:48 IST
This rare Earth-mass rocky planet could host life
Image Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/Daniel Rutter
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Astronomers have discovered a rare Earth-mass exoplanet - a planet beyond our solar system - that they say is one of the few promising targets to search for signs of life-friendly conditions and biosignatures.

The team, led by astronomer Diana Kossakowski of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, discovered the planet named Wolf 1069 b orbiting its home star, the red dwarf Wolf 1069, in the habitable zone.

"When we analyzed the data of the star Wolf 1069, we discovered a clear, low-amplitude signal of what appears to be a planet of roughly Earth mass. It orbits the star within 15.6 days at a distance equivalent to one-fifteenth of the separation between the Earth and the Sun," says Diana Kossakowski.

According to the researchers, Wolf 1069 b, despite being close to its central star, only receives 65% of the incident radiant power that Earth receives from the Sun, making it potentially friendly to life. Additionally, planets around red dwarf stars like Wolf 1069 may share a special property - their rotation is probably tidally locked to the orbit of its host star, meaning the star always faces the same side of the planet or there is an eternal day on one side while on the other side, it is always night.

Assuming Wolf 1069 b is a simple bare rocky planet, its average temperature on the side facing the star would only be -23°C. However, it's possible that the planet has formed an atmosphere, which could raise the temperature to +13°C, as shown by computer simulations using climate models. This would allow for liquid water and potentially life-friendly conditions, as life as we know it requires water.

The discovery was made using Carmenes, an instrument developed specifically for the search of potentially habitable worlds. This apparatus is deployed at the Calar Alto Observatory in Spain.

Their findings are published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. More details can be found here.

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