Wolf 1069 b has the same mass as Earth, but only half receives light from its star. Interestingly, this half of the planet is capable of supporting life.
Simulation image of the planet Wolf 1069 b. (Source: Mashable)
Imagine a distant planet where life could completely flourish, but only half of this object has light.
That’s what’s happening on a planet outside our solar system, named Wolf 1069 b. According to a new discovery, recently published by a team of scientists in the US in the scientific journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the new exoplanet is attracting a lot of attention for the following reasons.
First, Wolf 1069 b has the same mass as Earth and this is extremely rare. According to the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany, of the thousands of exoplanets that have been found and confirmed to exist so far, “only about 1.5% of them belong to the group twice the mass of the Earth.” earth and down”.
It is important that we know that celestial bodies with structures similar to Earth are capable of creating the conditions that allow life to exist.
Wolf 1069 b is even more special as its orbit is in the “habitable zone” – in an ideal position relative to its star, where liquid water could exist on the surface. this act.
To the researchers’ current knowledge, Wolf 1069 b is not overly affected by harmful radiation. This exoplanet orbits a star (named Wolf 1069) smaller and cooler than our Sun.
This feature allows the exoplanet to orbit quite close to the star Wolf 1069, but still be able to support life. Wolf 1069 b takes about 15.6 days to complete one revolution around its star. That is, a year on this planet is only 16 days long.
Something strange happened on Wolf 1069 b. Like our Moon, Wolf 1069 b is also “tidally locked” in its current orbit. This means that one side of the planet is constantly in contact with its star and the other side is not. As a result, half of Wolf 1069 b will be in complete darkness, while the rest is permanently light.
However, so far we still have no evidence that there is life in the universe, other than Earth, although humanity has discovered many exoplanets containing the potential to support life.
“A potentially life-supporting planet, but completely devoid of life,” said Ravi Kumar Kopparapu, an exoplanet researcher at the US Space Agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center (USA). NASA), commented on such planets in a conversation with Mashable earlier this year.
Finding a planet the size of Earth is a huge challenge. Many exoplanets have been found by observing whether a star dims when one of these planets passes in front of it. However, most exoplanets discovered to date are much larger than our own Earth, making them fairly easy to find.
Scientists used a different strategy to find Wolf 1069 b, a much smaller planet. They look for very small, but regular, changes in the light emitted by the star, through a technique known as “radial velocity”.
This method could provide evidence that a planet is orbiting the star. Scientists will then calculate the newly discovered planet’s mass and more, by measuring how the star’s light changes.