NASA just discovered a rare Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone

(ORDO NEWS) — When it comes to looking for life outside the solar system, the best place to start is with planets very similar to Earth. We can now welcome the celestial object TOI 700 e to this group of promising holds.

TOI 700 e is confirmed to be orbiting inside its star’s habitable zone, TOI 700. This is a region of space where there is a significant amount of water on its surface that would be at a temperature suitable for liquid form.

Too warm for an ice sheet, but still cool enough for steam to condense, such planets are considered “suitable” for life as we know it.

We can thank NASA‘s Transiting Exoplanet Exploration Satellite, or TESS, for finding TOI 700 e and giving it a name (TOI stands for TESS Object of Interest).

It is the second planet in the habitable zone in this system, joining TOI 700 d discovered in 2020.

NASA just discovered a rare Earth sized planet in the habitable zone 2
Illustration showing TOI 700 e in the foreground and TOI 700 d in the distance

“This is one of the few systems we know of with multiple small habitable zones,” says planetary scientist Emily Gilbert. , from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

“This makes the TOI 700 system an exciting prospect for additional research. Planet e is about 10 percent smaller than planet d, so the system also shows how additional TESS observations are helping us find smaller and smaller worlds.”

TOI 700 is a small, cool star (known as an M-class dwarf) located about 100 light-years away in the constellation Dorado. constellation.

These stars are nowhere near as big and hot as our Sun, so the planets must be closer to them for conditions to be warm enough to keep water from freezing.

As for TOI 700 e, it is believed to be 95 percent the size of the Earth and mostly rocky. It is in the “optimistic” habitable zone – a zone where water could have existed at some point in time.

TOI 700 d lies in a narrower “conservative” habitable zone, where astronomers believe liquid water could exist for most of the planet’s existence.

<span style=”letter-spacing: -0.025em; “Telescopes see these exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) as normal flares in the light of their parent stars as they pass in front of it, known as a transit.

With more surface, blocking the light of a star, larger planets present easier opportunities to observe than small, rocky worlds, making earth-like discoveries like this a rare treat.

TOI 700 e completes one revolution in 28 days, while TOI 700 d – slightly further than its neighbor – takes 37 days.

Since TOI 700 e is smaller than TOI 700 d, more data was needed to confirm that the silhouette does indeed represent a new planet.

“If the star were a little closer or the planet a little bigger, we could have detected TOI 700 e in the first year of the TESS data,” says astrophysicist Ben Hord from the University of Maryland.

“But the signal was so weak that it took us an extra year of transit observations to identify it.”

TESS tracks about 100 million stars, so we can find any way we can to narrow down the search for life. will be helpful. Finding exoplanets in their respective habitable zones is one of the best ways we have to do this.

Both TOI 700 e and TOI 700 d are believed to be tidally locked: in other words, one side of the planet is always facing its star (just as the same side of the Moon is always visible from Earth).

Admittedly, having one side of the planet constantly scorched by sunlight makes it less likely that complex life will start off smoothly.

Even if these “correct” planets aren’t exactly ideal for life, they tell us something about finding solar systems that might be better suited for it.

By studying star systems like the one we are in, astronomers can also better understand the evolution of our home and how neighboring planets came into their current orbits.

“Even though more than 5,000 exoplanets have been discovered to date, TOI 700 e is a key example that we still have a lot to learn,” says astronomer Joey Rodriguez of Michigan State University.

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