Wolf 1061c is an exoplanet confirmed to orbit within the habitable zone of its host star (Wolf 1061) 13.8 light-years away from Earth, residing in the constellation Ophiuchus, the fifth closest potentially habitable world to Earth. Above: artist concept of a terrestrial exoplanet.

Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in La Silla, Chile announced the discovery of Wolf 1061c on December 17, 2015, a result of a study conducted using a decade worth of archival spectra of its host star. The ESO 3.6m Telescope, equipped with the HARPS spectograph, is responsible for 130 exoplanet discoveries with detailed estimated analyses.

Astronomers designated Wolf 1061c as a super-Earth, its radius estimated to measure at 1.5R⊕, while its mass estimates around 3.41 times that of Earth. The exoplanet’s surface gravity is 1.6 times that of Earth’s. Scientists believe Wolf 1061c is a rocky planet. The temperature of the planets rests at 223 K (-50C, -58 F), only slightly higher than the temperature on Mars. Wolf 1061c orbits its star at a 17.9 day orbital period.

The La Silla Observatory at dusk. Credit:Y. Beletsky (LCO)/ESO

Since its host star is a red dwarf with merely a quarter of the mass of our sun, the star has the capability to last 400-500 billion years (or 40-50x) longer than our Sun, making in an alluring candidate for follow up observations and exploration, and probably where the crew in Interstellar should have goneDue to the fact that it lies so close to its star, the planet is tidally locked, resulting in one side permanently facing the star while leaving the other exposed to the vast dark abyss of the infinite Cosmos. Such an environment may result in extreme temperature differences, albeit great fictional plot devices, though the dark side could still be potentially habitable.

Star: Wolf 1061c
Constellation: Ophiuchus
Distance From Earth: 13.8 Light-years
Age: N/A
Habitable Zone: YES

Mass: 3.41x Earth
Planet Radius: 1.5⊕ (Super-Earth)

Orbital Period: 17.9 days
Temperature: 223 K (-50C, -58 F)

 

Discovery: December 17, 2015
Discoverer: European Southern Observatory

Discovery Method: Radial Velocity
Status: Confirmed

Artist’s visualization of a young, red dwarf star surrounded by three planets, much like Wolf 1061. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech