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Earth-like world found 14 light years away

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Kristin Moore
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« on: December 19, 2015, 05:33:45 pm »

Earth-like world found 14 light years away
Posted on Thursday, 17 December, 2015




Could there be alien life on a planet 14 light years away ? Image Credit: NASA
A potentially habitable terrestrial planet has been discovered in the relatively nearby Wolf 1061 system.
The hunt for a second Earth may have just moved a lot closer to home - give or take a few trillion miles - thanks to the discovery of three planets orbiting a red dwarf star only 14 light years away.

All three of these worlds are thought to be rocky terrestrial planets like the Earth and one of them is even sitting within the 'Goldilocks' zone where liquid water could potentially exist on its surface.

Despite the similarities to our own planet however this alien world is thought to orbit much closer to its parent star with a year there flashing past within the equivalent of just 18 Earth days.

"Given how close the planet is to the star it is likely to be 'tidally locked'," said team leader Duncan Wright from the University of New South Wales. "This means that one hemisphere of the planet will always face towards the star, much like one side of the moon always faces Earth."

While this normally means that one side of the planet will be very hot and the other side very cold, atmospheric modelling has indicated that high winds could help to circulate the heat.

As for whether the planet can support life - there's really no way to tell for sure at the moment, but scientists are certain that there are countless other worlds just like it throughout the universe.

"There is somewhere in the vicinity of 100 billion stars in our galaxy," said Dr Wright. "We know that half of those stars are red dwarf stars, like Wolf 1061."

"From observations made by the Kepler space telescope, we also know that half of those stars are expected to have multiple rocky planets orbiting them."   

 http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/astronomy/wolf-1061c-closest-planet-found-orbiting-in-a-stars-habitable-zone-14-light-years-from-earth-20151216-gloy0w.html
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Kristin Moore
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« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2015, 05:35:58 pm »

Wolf 1061c: closest planet found orbiting in a star's habitable zone 14 light years from Earth
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December 17, 2015
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Marcus Strom
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Closest potentially habitable planet found
Australian scientists from UNSW find rocky planet Wolf 1061c in the habitable zone of a star just 14 light years away.
Sun-like star found to have Earth-like planet
A team of Australian scientists has found the closest potentially habitable planet orbiting a star just 14 light years away.

At 130 trillion kilometres it might sound impossibly distant, but Wolf 1061 in the constellation Ophiucus is the 35th closest star to Earth. And 14 light years is just peanuts when it comes to space.


The European Southern Observatory at La Silla, Chile.
The University of NSW team, led by Duncan Wright, said three planets are orbiting Wolf 1061, a red dwarf "M-type" star.

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All three are thought to be rocky like the Earth or Venus, rather than gaseous like Neptune, due to their estimated mass and radius.

"It is a particularly exciting find because all three planets are of low enough mass to be potentially rocky and have a solid surface. The middle planet, Wolf 1061c, sits within the 'Goldilocks' zone where it might be possible for liquid water - and maybe even life - to exist," Dr Wright said.


Wolf 1061 planetary system Photo: UNSW
Of the three planets, one is too close to the star and hence too hot for life, and the other is too far out, and hence too cold. The middle planet could be just right.

That planet, Wolf 1061c, orbits the star every 18 days at a distance about 10 per cent of Earth's orbit of the sun. However, the red dwarf star is substantially cooler than the sun, about 3300 Kelvin compared with the sun's surface temperature of about 5800 Kelvin.

"Given how close the planet is to the star it is likely to be 'tidally locked'," Dr Wright told Fairfax Media. This means that one hemisphere of the planet will always face towards the star, much like one side of the moon always faces Earth.



Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/astronomy/wolf-1061c-closest-planet-found-orbiting-in-a-stars-habitable-zone-14-light-years-from-earth-20151216-gloy0w.html#ixzz3uoSLoIaf
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Kristin Moore
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« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2015, 05:36:37 pm »

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Kristin Moore
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« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2015, 05:38:07 pm »

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Kristin Moore
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« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2015, 05:38:53 pm »

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Kristin Moore
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« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2015, 05:39:19 pm »

The position of Wolf 1061. Photo: UNSW
"This changes the circumstances on the surface of the planet substantially. You have one very hot side and one very cool side."
However, Dr Wright said that atmospheric modelling shows that heat can circulate around such a planet, albeit producing very high winds across the permanent twilight zone between the two sides.
The three newly detected planets orbit the small, relatively cool and stable star about every five, 18 and 67 days. Their masses are at minimum 1.4, 4.3 and 5.2 times that of Earth, respectively.

Lead researcher Duncan Wright, UNSW astronomer.
Dr Wright's team used the "doppler wobble method" to detect the planets. As smaller objects (planets) orbit a larger object (the star) it causes the central mass to "wobble", or rotate around the centre of their combined masses. These small movements create a doppler shift in the light reaching Earth depending on whether the star is moving towards or away from us. This is similar to how we can tell whether an ambulance is moving towards us or away depending on the pitch of its siren: the doppler effect.
By measuring the nature of this wobble from the star's light, scientists are able to get a very accurate picture of what is causing this movement. They are able to tell the number of objects, their distance from the star, as well as their estimated mass and orbital period.
"With our current measurements we are able to get precision of the motion of the star down to a 'walking speed'," Dr Wright said. "The motion of the star is detected at about a one metre per second precision."

Dr Rob Wittenmyer.
Dr Wright and his team used observations of Wolf 1061 collected by the HARPS spectrograph at the European Southern Observatory's 3.6 metre telescope in La Silla, Chile.
The next step will be for telescopes to look at Wolf 1061 and search for "transits" of the planets in front of the star. The small dip in light caused by the planets passing in front of the star will allow scientists to find out more about this planetary system.
"The close proximity of the planets around Wolf 1061 means there is a good chance these planets may pass across the face of the star. If they do, then it may be possible to study the atmospheres of these planets in future to see whether they would be conducive to life," said team member Rob Wittenmyer.
Dr Wright is keen for this discovery to have some galactic perspective.
"There is somewhere in the vicinity of 100 billion stars in our galaxy," he said. "We know that half of those stars are red dwarf stars, like Wolf 1061. From observations made by the Kepler space telescope, we also know that half of those stars are expected to have multiple rocky planets orbiting them.
"So if you consider our find in that context we are talking about billions and billions of rocky planets in our galaxy alone. And of course we know of more than 100 billion galaxies in the universe."
That's a lot of planets to explore.


Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/astronomy/wolf-1061c-closest-planet-found-orbiting-in-a-stars-habitable-zone-14-light-years-from-earth-20151216-gloy0w.html#ixzz3uoTTbbV5
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Kristin Moore
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« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2015, 05:40:35 pm »


Lead researcher Duncan Wright, UNSW astronomer.
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Kristin Moore
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« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2015, 05:41:30 pm »


Dr Rob Wittenmyer.
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Behold, I am Death, Destroyer of Worlds
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« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2015, 02:59:17 am »

You are not correct. The average distance from the sun is 1 AU (Astronomical Unit), NOT a light year. 1 AU is 93 million miles. 1 light year is 5.8 trillion miles. So this plant is 83.3 TRILLION miles from us. 1.3 billion miles would put this planet right around Uranus, coincidentally enough.
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Bat
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« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2015, 03:02:08 am »

If money wasn't an object, we could likely create a generation ship that could reach it.
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HawkLord
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« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2015, 03:04:34 am »

This is cool I wonder if there is human life on that planet
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Heartmonger
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« Reply #11 on: December 20, 2015, 03:06:26 am »

Could humans survive ?? I think not as the gravity would defeat us if the planet is 4 times Earth size.
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Hunt for Extraterrestial Lifeforms
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« Reply #12 on: December 20, 2015, 03:08:33 am »

Being in the Goldilocks Zone would certainly make the planet an interesting place to look. The possibility of life on the planet is an interesting one, firstly how thick is the atmosphere? If the atmosphere is too thin then the planet surface would be very susceptible to meteor impacts thus reducing the possibility of surface life having the opportunity to establish itself, evolve to multicell organisms and eventually become sentient. Marine life may stand a better chance of developing, as the planet may be tidally locked the water would presumably be pulled more to the hot side of the planet
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The Creeper
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« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2015, 03:10:42 am »

We are not going to find advanced life orbiting in the "Goldilocks zone" around a red dwarf. Those things are too active (flare activity) and dangerous and in the G-zone one is going to have a tidal lock. I think red dwarfs are popular in this context because they are so numerous. If you rule them out you cut the number of planets that qualify by about eighty percent.
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Astra
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« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2015, 03:13:01 am »

It is interesting to note that there is controversy with regard to the idea of the Goldilock's zone or circumstellar habitable zone as it is historically modeled around our solar system and weighted to carbon-based life. But, even within our solar system's Goldilocks zone it seems we must consider the scale of time relative to the evolution of life. Mars holds promise of discovery of microbial remnants, but I would imagine it would be rather difficult to even find remnants of life on Venus or even our own moon. It seems there is a large range of macro and micro environmental variables .
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