They've Found A Potentially Habitable Planet 'Close' To Earth

Katie Ramirez
January 7, 2020

NASA's planet hunter satellite TESS has discovered an Earth-sized world within the habitable range of its star, which could allow the presence of liquid water. Known as TOI 700 d, the exoplanet is part of the several planets that are orbiting TOI 700, a small M- dwarf star which is roughly 40% of Sun's mass and size, and carries half of its surface temperature, CNN reported.

Dubbed TOI 700 d by NASA, the exoplanet orbits its sun at distances where conditions could allow liquid water to exist on the surface.

"TESS was designed and launched specifically to find Earth-sized planets orbiting nearby stars", said Paul Hertz, NASA astrophysics division director.

"Before our work, oxygen at similar levels as on Earth was thought to be undetectable with NASA's James Webb Space Telescope", said Dr. Thomas Fauchez, an astronomer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

"TOI 700 d" is a part of a cluster of 4 planets that revolves across the chilly pink dwarf (a star that hardly radiates mild) TOI 700 and is simply over 100 light-years away from our planet. "Confirming the planet's size and habitable zone status with Spitzer is another win for Spitzer as it approaches the end of science operations this January". It is exclusively about 40% of our solar mass and measurement, with half of the surface temperature.

"When we corrected the star's parameters, the sizes of its planets dropped, and we realized the outermost one was about the size of Earth and in the habitable zone", said Emily Gilbert, a graduate student at the University of Chicago.

Scientists from University of California, Riverside proposed a way of detecting high concentrations of oxygen from nonliving processes, using NASA's James Webb Space Telescope to be launched in 2021. From its smaller star, the planet receives about 86% of the power that our solar provides the Earth.

All three planets may be tidally locked to TOI 700, always showing it the same face just as Earth's moon only ever shows us its near side. The innermost planet, b, is the size of Earth and rocky like our planet and zips around the star every 10 Earth days. All in all, TOI 700 d is deemed potentially habitable by the scientists.

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Based on our models, we found that if the atmosphere of planet TOI-700 d contains a combination of methane or carbon dioxide or water vapor, the planet could be habitable.

The findings were presented at the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society and will soon be published in a scientific journal. The team modelled the impact of this enhanced radiation on atmospheric chemistry, and used this to simulate how the component colors of the star's light would change when the planet would pass in front of it.

This planet isn't likely to be all that livable, however: It's 6.9 times larger than Earth, which puts it in a class between Neptune and Saturn. "The human eye is extremely good at finding patterns in data, especially non-periodic patterns like those we see in transits from these systems". This signal could help scientists distinguish between living and nonliving planets.

TOI 700 d's star TOI 700, the star at the centre of this planetary system, was originally classified as being the same as the Sun.

Another first for TESS is its discovery of a planet orbiting two suns, like Tatooine in the Star Wars films. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; MIT's Lincoln Laboratory; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, according to a statement.

Exactly what the planet's surface looks like is still a mystery.

Researchers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland modelled 20 possible environments for TOI 700 d, including one ocean-covered simulation, with a CO2-rich atmosphere similar to what scientists believe Mars was like many years ago.

The mission would be extended until 2022, according to NASA.

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