New ‘Super-Earth’ Discovered in Close Proximity to Our Solar System

New ‘Super-Earth’ Discovered in Close Proximity to Our Solar System

In a remarkable discovery, NASA has announced the detection of a “super-Earth” in a nearby solar system’s habitable zone. Designated as TOI-715 b, this exoplanet is approximately 1.5 times wider than Earth and located a mere 137 light-years away from us. While this may sound distant, it is considered relatively close in astronomical terms, especially when compared to the vast expanse of our Milky Way galaxy, which spans approximately 100,000 light-years.

TOI-715 b orbits around a red dwarf star, which is smaller and cooler than our Sun. Due to the star’s lower temperature, this super-Earth can orbit at a closer proximity and still remain within the habitable zone. The habitable zone refers to the region around a star where conditions are suitable for liquid water to exist on a planet’s surface, making it potentially capable of sustaining life.

One intriguing advantage of TOI-715 b’s closer orbit is the frequency with which it passes in front of its star. This regular occurrence makes it significantly easier for scientists to track and study the planet’s characteristics. In fact, a “year” on TOI-715 b lasts only 19 days.

Within the same solar system, researchers have also identified another planet that is more Earth-like. If confirmed, it would become the smallest habitable-zone planet ever discovered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launched in 2018. TESS is instrumental in identifying potential exoplanets, which are then further observed and classified using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

This awe-inspiring find was led by a team of scientists, led by Georgina Dransfield from the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. The results of their study have been published in the esteemed journal “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.”

While super-Earths, like TOI-715 b, are larger than our home planet, they still fall within a size range that is lighter than ice giants such as Neptune and Uranus. Super-Earth planets can consist of a combination of rock and gas and can be up to 10 times more massive than Earth. However, it should be noted that not all super-Earths are necessarily habitable. Their composition can vary widely, including the possibility of water worlds, snowball planets, or even planets predominantly made up of dense gas, similar to Neptune.

For a fascinating visual comparison between Earth and TOI-715 b, NASA provides an interactive tool that allows us to appreciate the scale and wonder of these cosmic objects. The discovery of this super-Earth serves as a reminder of the vastness and diversity of our universe, igniting our curiosity and pushing the boundaries of our understanding of distant worlds.

FAQ

1. What is TOI-715 b?
TOI-715 b is a “super-Earth” exoplanet located in a nearby solar system’s habitable zone. It is approximately 1.5 times wider than Earth and is located 137 light-years away from us.

2. How far is TOI-715 b in astronomical terms?
TOI-715 b is considered relatively close in astronomical terms, as it is only 137 light-years away from Earth. This is small compared to the vast expanse of our Milky Way galaxy, which spans approximately 100,000 light-years.

3. What is the habitable zone?
The habitable zone refers to the region around a star where conditions are suitable for liquid water to exist on a planet’s surface, making it potentially capable of sustaining life.

4. What advantage does TOI-715 b’s closer orbit have?
TOI-715 b’s closer orbit around its red dwarf star makes it easier for scientists to track and study the planet’s characteristics. It regularly passes in front of its star, providing more frequent observation opportunities.

5. Has another Earth-like planet been discovered in the same solar system?
Yes, within the same solar system, researchers have identified another planet that is more Earth-like. It would become the smallest habitable-zone planet ever discovered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

6. What is the purpose of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)?
TESS is instrumental in identifying potential exoplanets, which are then further observed and classified using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. It helps in the search for habitable-zone planets.

Key Terms:
– Super-Earth: A type of exoplanet larger than Earth but lighter than ice giants like Neptune and Uranus. It can consist of a combination of rock and gas and may vary in composition.
– Exoplanet: A planet that orbits a star outside of our solar system.
– Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS): A NASA satellite launched in 2018 to search for exoplanets by detecting tiny dips in the brightness of stars caused by orbiting planets passing in front of them.
– James Webb Space Telescope: A large, space-based observatory set to launch in 2021 that will greatly expand our knowledge of the universe, including the study of exoplanets.

Related Links:
NASA website
TESS mission
James Webb Space Telescope