Newly discovered Earth-sized planet could be ‘promising target’ to search for alien life, study says

A new rocky Earth-sized planet discovered about 31 light-years away could be a “promising target” for searching for signs of extraterrestrial life, according to a new study.

The research, recently published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, description of a planet orbiting its home star – the red dwarf Wolf 1069 – in the habitable zone that could support the existence of liquid water on the planet’s surface.

Researchers, including those from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany, say the planet is a rocky planet with a similar mass to Earth that may also have an atmosphere.

These features, they say, make the planet one of the few “promising targets” to look for signs of life-friendly conditions as well as life’s signature molecules.

To put the new discovery into perspective, the scientists explain that only a dozen of the more than 5,000 exoplanets currently known to astronomers have Earth-like masses and are also in the habitable zone where water can exist in the form of liquid.

“When we analyzed the data of the star Wolf 1069, we discovered a clear, low-amplitude signal of what appears to be a planet of about the mass of Earth,” study co-author Diana Kossakowski said in a statement.

“It orbits the star in a total of 15.6 days, which is one-fifteenth of the separation between the Earth and the Sun,” explained Dr. Kossakowski.

Despite the planet’s distance to the central red dwarf star, it receives only about 65 percent of the incident radiant power of what Earth receives from the Sun.

The star, according to scientists, is also “relatively cool” and appears to be orange-red, which is why the so-called habitable zone is moving into this solar system.

Because of these “special conditions,” researchers say the planets around red dwarf stars like Wolf 1069 can be friendly to life.

Scientists suspect that the star is red-dwarf and that the planet may be tidally locked, meaning that the star may always face the same side of the planet – similar to how the Earth always faces the same side of the Moon.

they speculated that the average temperature on the rocky planet even on the side facing the star could be around -23C.

If the planet is found to have an atmosphere, its temperature could be up to +13C, according to researchers based on computer simulations.

In these conditions, water can remain liquid and life-friendly conditions can prevail on the planet, scientists say.

Based on these factors, the astronomers say that “the planet is a very promising target for future three-dimensional climate models to investigate different habitable scenarios.”

However, scientists say that looking for signs of life on this rocky planet 31 light years away is currently beyond the capabilities of astronomical research.

“We will probably have to wait another 10 years for this,” said Dr. Kossakowski.

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