Astronomers around the world hope one day to discover signs of life throughout the Universe. For this reason, they are trying to find exoplanets with similar conditions as Earth, which have the highest chance of developing life forms. One of the most recent discoveries involves the “super-Earth” Wolf 1061c exoplanet.
One of best ways to find exoplanets with habitable conditions is to look for them in the habitable zona of a solar system, meaning that they have to in the perfect distance from their sun as to not get too hot but still not too far away as to have very low temperatures. In December 2015, astronomers from the University of New South Wales in Australia, have discovered a planet in the habitable zone of the Wolf 1061 star.
The solar system is located just 14 light years from our own and includes three planets. It is relatively close to Earth compared to other more distant solar system with potentially habitable planets, but nowhere near the Proxima Centauri solar system, as the Proxima Centauri b planet is just four light years away and may very well be habitable.
However, in regards to the Wolf 1061c exoplanet, researchers from the San Francisco State University, led by astrophysicist Stephen Kane, they found that it is highly unlikely to be habitable due to a potential runaway greenhouse effect similar to that of Venus which has had its oceans evaporated.
Kane and his colleagues revised the initial habitable zone of Wolf 1061c and found that it’s located at its inner edge. This means that the planet could be close enough to the star to experience to same effects which led to the disappearance of Venus’ oceans. For their analysis, the researchers used the six telescopes found at the Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy.
Further observations of the planet’s climate are obstructed by the limited capacity of current telescopes which are unable to analyze conditions on planets with orbit oscillations. The scientists hope that this limitation will be overcome with the launch of more advanced telescopes such as the James Webb Space telescope or the Wide Field Infrared Survey telescope. However, we still have a few more years to wait, as they scheduled for the coming decade.
Image credit: NASA