Australian scientists have spotted the closest potentially habitable planet yet.
‘Wolf 1061c’ is around 14 light years away, or around 126 trillion km, and is located in the constellation Ophiucus.
The newly discovered planet’s star is the 35th closest to Earth - that has so far been discovered.
Wolf 1061c is orbiting a red dwarf ‘M-type’ star - Wolf 1061 - alongside two other planets, according to Researchers at the University of New South Wales.
All three planets are thought to feature rocky terrain, similar to Mars.
“It is a particularly exciting find because all three planets are of low enough mass to be potentially rocky and have a solid surface, and the middle planet, Wolf 1061c, sits within the ‘Goldilocks’ zone where it might be possible for liquid water - and maybe even life - to exist,” says lead study author UNSW’s Dr Duncan Wright.
Most of the rocky exoplanets discovered so far are hundreds or thousands of light years away.
“While a few other planets have been found that orbit stars closer to us than Wolf 1061, those planets are not considered to be remotely habitable,” Dr Wright says.
The new planet is 4.3 times bigger than Earth and orbits its star every 18 days, though the Wolf 1061 star is much cooler than our Sun.
In future, it is hoped that the planets can be studied to see if they would be able to sustain humans.
“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,” says team member UNSW’s Dr Rob Wittenmyer.