Wolf 1061c: A new candidate for habitable planet?

Dr. Stephen Kane is one of the main planet hunters today. He searches for planets in the so-called “habitable zones” where liquid water can exist. His team examined a very close to Earth planet in the Wolf 1061 planetary system.

“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,” Kane said.

It has three known planets, and one of them is a rocky planet entirely in the habitable zone.

With the help of scientists from Tennessee State University and Geneva, they were able to measure the star to gain insight on whether life could exist on this planet.

New habitable planet?

Scientists are looking for  a planet with the exact same properties as our Earth, Kane said. It must be in the habitable zone, where liquid water exist and conditions are just right for life.

If the planet is too close, it would be too hot. If its too far away, it would be too cold and the water would freeze.

It is possible for a planet to suffer a “runaway greenhouse effect”, where the heat gets trapped and the planet becomes really hot. Scientists believe that this happened to Venus. The planet had oceans but they evaporated, and the resulting water vapor is a very strong greenhouse gas, which turned Venus into what we see today.

The planet Wolf 1061c is close to the inner edge, which may make it like Venus. “It’s close enough to the star where it’s looking suspiciously like a runaway greenhouse,” Kane said.

The scientists observed that Wolf 1061c rotated far faster than Earth. This could cause the weather on the planet to be very turbulent. “It could cause the frequency of the planet freezing over or heating up to be quite severe,” Kane said.

However is life possible on Wolf 1061c? The researchers believe that the fast orbit may cool the planet and make it habitable, but they will need further researching.

With the new generation of telescopes like James Webb Space Telescope, it would be possible to detect the atmospheric components of exoplanets, and find what is the climate on the surface.

Source : Sciencedaily.com