Astronomers are exploring a planet named Wolf 1061c, just 14 light years from Earth that could support life.
Discovered by one of the world’s leading “planet hunters” Stephen Kane, this mysterious planet orbits within its solar system’s “habitable zone,” close enough for the scientists to conduct ongoing research.
“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.
The planet’s orbit is believed to stay close to the inner edge of this region. It means it could be dominated by extreme heat, trapping in its atmosphere, causing a “runaway greenhouse effect,” which is what scientists believe happened on Venus, Earth’s twin.
“It’s close enough to the star where it’s looking suspiciously like a runaway greenhouse,” Kane said.
However, the research team also noted that Wolf 1061c’s orbit changes at a faster rate, which could be a symptom of a chaotic climate.
“It could cause the frequency of the planet freezing over or heating up to be quite severe,” Kane said.
Wolf 1061c isn’t the first planet believed to have Earth-like characteristics. Scientists discovered the first potential “Earth 2.0,” Kepler-452b in 2015. It orbits within the habitable zone of a sun 1,400 light years away and scientists believe it has many Earth-like characteristics. Also, back in August 2016, another Earth-like planet, 4 light years away from Earth was discovered, which orbits a star called Proxima Centauri.
Kane believes with the launch of new James Webb Space Telescope, it might become possible to better assess the atmospheric conditions to find out whether water lies on its surface.