Space & Astronomy
Potentially habitable extrasolar planet discovered
By T.K. Randall
September 10, 2022 · 8 comments
Have astronomers discovered Earth 2.0 ? Image Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech
Astronomers have announced that they have identified a relatively nearby exoplanet with the potential to host alien life.
Astrophysicist Laetitia Delrez of the University of Liege, and colleagues, discovered two 'super-Earth' planets orbiting a small, cool star known as LP 890-9 which is situated around 100 light-years away.
One of these worlds was previously identified by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), but the team had decided to use the ground-based SPECULOOS (Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) telescopes in Chile and Tenerife to take a closer look.
What they found was a second planet situated in the star's habitable zone - the region in which the temperature is sufficient to support the existence of liquid water.
Impressively, this makes this newly detected world (known as LP 890-9c), a prime candidate in the search for alien life.
"Although this planet orbits very close to its star, at a distance about 10 times shorter than that of Mercury around our Sun, the amount of stellar irradiation it receives is still low, and could allow the presence of liquid water on the planet's surface, provided it has a sufficient atmosphere," said study co-author Francisco J. Pozuelos of the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia.
"This is because the star LP 890-9 is about 6.5 times smaller than the Sun and has a surface temperature half that of our star. This explains why LP 890-9c, despite being much closer to its star than the Earth is to the Sun, could still have conditions that are suitable for life."
A closer look at this intriguing world using the James Webb Space Telescope should help to determine more about its surface conditions and atmosphere.
Source: Smithsonian Magazine
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