New Super Earth, Light Years Away

By Olivia Carrara

Fourteen light years away from Earth, a new exoplanet has just been discovered. An exoplanet is a planet that orbits a star, similar to how the Earth orbits the sun. Planets are not usually a hot-topic in the news, but this planet is something to buzz about! The planet  is the nearest habitable planet to our Earth and could be home to alien life. This planet is currently being referred to as a ‘Super Earth’ due to its mass which is four times that of Earth. It orbits a red dwarf star called Wolf 1061. Scientists stationed at the University of New South Wales in Australia discovered this new world in 2015. There are Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 10.41.42 PMthree planets that orbit Wolf 1061, but this specific one, named Wo1061lf c, is the only one of these planets whose distance could support the existence of water and life. It is not too hot nor too cold, so it is said to be inside the “Goldilocks Zone”. Habitable planets have never been discovered within such a close distance to us; this makes the planet much more accessible. There have been 1,870 exoplanets identified, but never habitable and this close to our Earth!

Although this planet has the necessary characteristics to support life, it is not really a viable option for space travel or future occupation. One side of the planet experiences excruciating heat, while the other is left dark and nearly frozen. Furthermore, the oxygen is about 1.8 times that on Earth, which is not ideal for humans. While this planet is not ideal for humans, scientists believe that there are many planets yet to be discovered that could be inhabited by humans one day.