An international team of scientists announced Wednesday that they have discovered two new “super-Earth” planets just 100 light-years apart. Both are significantly larger than our own planet – and one of them might be suitable for life.
Super-Earths are a unique class of exoplanets in the solar system that are more massive than our planet, but lighter than ice giants, according to NASA. They are made of some combination of gas and rock and can be up to 10 times the mass of Earth.
The findings, discovered with NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and the University of Liège’s Search for Habitable Planets Eclipsing Extremely Cool Stars (SPECULOOS), will be published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Both newly discovered planets orbit LP 890-9, a “relatively low-activity” red dwarf star that NASA says typically has a narrow habitable zone.
The first planet, LP 890-9b or TOI-4306b, was first spotted by NASA’s satellite and later confirmed to be an exoplanet by SPECULOOS. It is about 30% larger than our planet with a radius of more than 5,200 miles and orbits its sun in just 2.7 days.
But it’s a second planet that was previously unknown to scientists that has proven to be the most fascinating. LP 890-9c, or SPECULOOS-2c, is slightly further from its star than the first planet. It is about 40% larger than Earth with a radius of more than 5,400 miles and takes about three times as long as the neighboring planet to orbit its star.
According to the researchers, this orbit length is within the star’s habitable zone.
“Although this planet orbits very close to its star, at a distance of about 10 times that of Mercury around our sun, the amount of stellar radiation it receives is still low and could allow for the presence of liquid water on the surface of the planet. provided it has sufficient atmosphere,” said study co-author Francisco Pozuelos.
That’s because the planet’s star, LP 890-9, is about 6.5 times smaller and about half as cool in temperature as our sun, he explained.
“This explains why LP 890-9c, despite being much closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun, could have conditions suitable for life,” Pozuelos added.
Researchers now plan to study the planet’s atmosphere to determine how habitable it might be. Based on their findings, it is believed that it could be the second most favorable terrestrial planet to sustain life.
“The discovery of LP 890-9c therefore offers a unique opportunity to better understand and constrain the habitable conditions around the smallest and coolest stars in our solar neighborhood,” said lead researcher Laetitia Delrez.
The new finding comes just weeks after scientists announced the discovery of another “super-Earth” that could potentially support life.The exoplanet, called TOI-1452 b, orbits a red dwarf star that is also about 100 light-years away from our planet, which scientists say is “fairly close.”
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