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Published: Mon, January 23, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Scientists are checking a nearby exoplanet for alien transmissions


However, the proximity of Wolf 1061 to Earth was not only an attractive subject for Kane and his team.

With the universe so vast, the possibility of life on other planets is big.

The researchers have already studied Wolf 1061c's dim M-dwarf star - referred to simply as Wolf 1061 - and discovered that it provides ideal conditions for the planet to harbor liquid water, much like Venus once did before our Sun vaporized it's oceans.

Discoveries of these "Earth-like" worlds have stirred hopes of discovering life beyond our solar system.

The analysis of Wolf 1061c's atmosphere could serve as an important case study for scientists looking to determine which exoplanets can support life.

When I first heard about Wolf 1061c in 2015, it was thought to be the closest potentially habitable exoplanet to our solar system.

Astronomers are focusing more on an area called the habitable zone around star systems.

Researchers managed to measure the star around which the planet orbits in order to gain a clearer picture of the existence of life there. The exoplanet would need to be in the "Goldilocks zone" or the sweet spot where the environment is conducive to propagate life. If it's too far, it may be too cold and any water would freeze, which is what happens on Mars. His research, whose results will be published in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal, examined the planet's host star.

Normally, scientists would worry that such a planet was too hot, with its star's heat trapping gas in its atmosphere, causing a "runaway greenhouse effect".

Kane said when scientists look out for planets that could sustain life, they basically look for a planet having almost identical properties to Earth.

"The surface temperature on Venus now reaches a scalding 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius)".

Kane and his team also observed that unlike Earth, which experiences climatic changes such as an ice age because of slow variations in its orbit around the sun, Wolf 1061c's orbit changes at a much faster rate, which could mean the climate there could be quite chaotic.

"But fully understanding what's happening on the planet's surface will take more research".

Doug Vakoch, President of (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) METI, is not very optimistic that scientists will find signs of life in the Super-Earth.

There are three so-called super-Earths in the system, including Wolf 1061c, which orbits in the habitable zone where the temperature is such that liquid water, and therefore life as we know it, could exist.

"We'll try [to observe Wolf 1061c] again later next month, when it's visible there again, using a more advanced detector system developed by Ben Schuetz, Director of the Boquete Optical SETI Observatory", he added.

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