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Scientists discovered a nearby planet called Wolf 1069 b that could be habitable

Published Feb 6th, 2023 4:01PM EST
wasp-39b illustration shows James Webb's observations of alien planet
Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, Joseph Olmsted (STScI)

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Astronomers have discovered a rarity among the stars. According to a new study published in Astronomy and Astrophysics, an exoplanet known only as Wolf 1069 b may be a habitable planet. What’s even more exciting is that this exoplanet is only 31 light-years away from Earth.

Finding a habitable planet has been the goal for many astronomers over the years, and while scientists are sure that alien life exists out there somewhere, we’ve yet to find a planet that could sustain even the smallest types of life forms. This is why the discovery of a possibly habitable planet is so exciting.

According to the astronomers behind this newest study, Wolf 1069 b orbits a red dwarf star. The planet is also potentially rocky, making it earthlike in makeup. The potentially habitable planet is 1.26 the mass of Earth and roughly 1.08 the size.

marshmallow world discovered orbit red dwarf
A small exoplanet orbiting a red dwarf star may be habitable, astronomers say. Image source: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva/Spaceengine/M. Zamani

The only thing really concerning about the planet, then, is that it orbits its star within 15.6 days, and rests at a distance equivalent to around one-15th of the separation between Earth and our Sun. As points out, this is a distance similar to Mercury’s distance from the Sun.

On Mercury, temperatures can reach up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit. But Wolf 1069 b would not suffer from these temperatures because it is within the habitable zone of its star. That means that, theoretically, liquid water should be able to survive on the potentially habitable planet. However, that is not a guarantee.

This isn’t the first time that scientists have discovered a promising planet out in the nethers of space. Previously, a planet located over 100 light-years away was believed to be able to support life. Unfortunately, proving that a planet is habitable beyond a shadow of a doubt is a bit more complex than just observing the planet itself.

Still, this study, along with other observations of Wolf 1069 b could give us a good idea of what to expect when more advanced telescopes take a look at the exoplanet. And, if nothing else, the prospect of possibly finding a habitable planet among the millions out there is exciting for quite a few.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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