Scientists searching the universe for exoplanets that may host life have come across TWO new ‘Goldilocks’ planets which have raised hope of not only finding alien life, but finally coming across a planet like Earth. On one of these planets, astronomers have even detected air.
Wolf 1061C –located around 14 light years from Earth— and GJ 1132b which is around 39 light years from Earth have rapidly become two favorite exoplanets for astronomers who are eager to discover alien life, and even possibly Earth’s clone.
Both of these distant worlds are located in their star’s Goldilocks zone –an orbital area where it is neither too warm nor too cold for liquid water to exist.
Wold 1061c is one of the three planets orbiting an M-Class Red Dwarf. The promising part is that this planet is located in t mere center of the habitable zone. However, scientists warn that it is four times bigger than our world which means that it is very likely that its gravity has created a ‘runaway greenhouse effect’ similar to of our neighboring planet Venus.
On the other hand, GJ 1132b is a game changer. In fact, there are some who refer to it as Earth’s clone. It has a diameter of 50 % larger than Earth and orbits its star on the warmer end of the Goldilocks zone. Given its size, it’s very likely that it has the necessary condition to maintain a ‘stable’ atmosphere.
According to a recently published study in the Astrophysics Journal, scientists at the European Southern Observatory in Chile – a 16-nation strong intergovernmental astronomy agency, GJ 1132b is extremely promising since it has methane and water in its atmosphere.
Lead author astrophysicist John Southworth told Scientific American: “We have shown that an Earth-mass planet is capable of sustaining a thick atmosphere.
“This is one step towards investigating whether a planet could host life.”
Discovering water on a planet is mindbending, finding methane is even more.
On Earth, 90% of all methane in the atmosphere is produced by living organisms known as methanogens—organisms which do not need oxygen and rely on hydrogen to survive.
Researcher Julien de Wit added: “Detecting the atmosphere of Earth-sized planets around M-dwarfs is an essential step in the search for habitable exoplanets. The concern, however, is that they may not always be able to sustain an atmosphere because of the potential history of strong activity of their star.”
“Finding one with an atmosphere would provide us with hope.”
In the near future, bigger telescopes will allow us to capture higher resolution images of the light that passes through the planet’s atmosphere, which will help us detect –whith greater precision— its composition.