Star-rich galaxy found from universe's baby years (representational image)
Star-rich galaxy found from universe's baby years (representational image) Reuters

In an exciting discovery, Australian astronomers have found a potentially habitable super-Earth that is just 14 light years away from the Solar System. It is one of the three planets found orbiting a small red dwarf star (Wolf 1061c) in the constellation Ophiuchus.

The discovery has been documented in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. ABC reports that Wolf 1061 is about a quarter of the Sun’s mass and has a surface temperature of about 3,100 degrees Celsius — just over half that of the Sun.

The three newly detected planets are believed by the astronomers to be rocky terrestrial worlds. "The middle planet Wolf 1061c, is orbiting within the so-called 'Goldilocks zone' — the habitable zone where it might be possible for liquid water and maybe even life to exist," said the study's lead author Dr Duncan Wright of the University of New South Wales.

According to Wright, the discovery is especially exciting because the star is extremely calm, unlike most other red dwarfs that are extremely active which give out X-ray bursts and superflares which are dangerous.

"After looking at several thousand planetary candidates we found that our Sun is a particularly quiet star, even quieter than your average Sun-like star," said Wright. According to him, the Wolf 1061 is also a particularly quiet star, which probably indicates that it's a very old system.

Wright said that all three planets in the Ophiuchus are thought to be rocky like the Earth or Venus rather than gaseous like Neptune due to their estimated mass and radius, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. "It is a particularly exciting find because all three planets are of low enough mass to be potentially rocky and have a solid surface.”

"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," according to the publication. The astronomers used the HARPS spectrograph on the European Southern Observatory's 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla in Chile to observe the star's movement.

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