Newly-discovered planet named Wolf 1061c which is only 14 light years away from us has been described as the closest one with the prospects of habitability. The findings will soon be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
To get an idea of how close it is to the Earth, consider this: Mars is 249 million km away, and Wolf 1061c is 126 trillion km away.
Recently spotted by Australian researchers, it is situated in Ophiuchus constellation. It is orbiting a star – called Wolf 1061, which is the 35th closest star to Earth – together with two other planets, and it is in the middle position (as shown in the diagram above).
In a statement reported by EurekAlert, the lead author, astronomer Duncan Wright from the University of New South Wales, explains that the mass of Wolf 1061c is sufficiently small to be “potentially rocky”. Actually, the three planets might all be rocky, with solid surfaces, and thus similar to Mars.
Given its position in the “Goldilocks zone”, and being the middle planet, Wright thinks liquid water, and even life, might exist in its midst.
On the other hand, Wolf 1061c does not bear close resemblance to the Earth in spite of its potential of being habitable. Compared to us, Wolf 1061c has a mass 4.3 times greater than Earth’s, and orbits its star only every 18 days – you would think that would be too hot for life to exist on its surface but star Wolf1061 is far cooler than our Sun. Also, for a red dwarf, the star is particularly calm instead of being the usual active bursting-with-flares star — which is yet another reason why the planet might be holding life on its surface.
The team of researchers now intend to study the planets’ atmospheres to determine whether they really are potentially habitable.