NASA Unveils Closest 'Super-Earth' in Habitable Zone, Paving Way for Life's Potential

Written by Henrik Rothen

Feb.06 - 2024 10:27 AM CET

NASA Unveils Closest 'Super-Earth' in Habitable Zone, Paving Way for Life's Potential.

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NASA has recently shared exciting news about the discovery of a new exoplanet, termed a "super-Earth," located a mere 137 light-years from Earth, nestled within the habitable zone of its star system. This zone is an area around a star where conditions may be just right for liquid water to exist on a planet's surface, a crucial factor for the potential of life.

This is reported by ABC News.

This particular exoplanet, named TOI-715 b, is notably larger than Earth, with a diameter about 1.5 times that of our planet, and it orbits a relatively small, dim star. Intriguingly, the system that TOI-715 b belongs to might also be home to a second planet, one that's comparable in size to Earth. If this second planet's presence is confirmed, it would stand as the smallest planet within a habitable zone detected by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to date, a significant milestone since the satellite's deployment in 2018.

One of the striking features of TOI-715 b is its orbit around a red dwarf star, which is smaller and cooler than the sun. This proximity means that a year on TOI-715 b—defined as one complete orbit around its star—lasts only 19 Earth days. This short orbital period enhances the potential for astronomers to detect and study the planet more thoroughly.

NASA's observations suggest that TOI-715 b, because of its favorable distance from its star, could maintain temperatures that allow liquid water to exist. However, the agency notes that other conditions must align for the planet to be truly habitable.

The exploration and study of TOI-715 b and its potential sibling planet are poised for further advancement with the help of the James Webb Space Telescope. This instrument is capable of analyzing the atmospheres of exoplanets, providing critical insights into their composition and the possibility of life.

The research into TOI-715 b was spearheaded by Georgina Dransfield from the University of Birmingham, U.K., and the findings were published in the "Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society" journal. This discovery adds to the growing catalog of habitable-zone exoplanets that could be key targets for future investigations into the conditions necessary for life beyond Earth.