Ilustração de dois planetas com potencial para receber vida como a Terra

Two super planets with the potential to host life discovered. Will they be the “new Earth”?

One of the great impulses of astronomy is the discovery of potential planets where there is life or could harbor ours. Humanity, in order to prolong its existence for more than 4 billion years, has to leave, it has to get a new planet that is home to earthlings. In one of the recent discoveries, astronomers have detected two potentially habitable super planets.

Both are just 100 light-years away, they are rocky planets orbiting the star LP 890-9. This is a discovery that is catching the attention of exoplanet hunters “that may have habitable conditions”.

Is this the planet that could be "the new Earth"?

A pair of rocky planets, orbiting the star LP 890-9 - also known as SPECULOOS 2, may be able to be inhabited. At least one of them could be the second most habitable exoplanet discovered so far. The planets are called LP 890-9b - which had been sighted before, but we knew little about it - and LP 890-9c, also called SPECULOOS-2c.

Only a few details are known about SPECULOOS-2c other than its size and the eight days it takes to orbit its star, LP 890-9. Amaury Triaud at the University of Birmingham, UK, and his colleagues, who spotted it, hope that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can bring up more data regarding aspects such as the existence of an atmosphere and other features that are suspected to have .

In fact, it is these responses that inform us about the potential of the planet to host life. Being in the habitable zone around a star means conditions aren't too hot or too cold, so there could be liquid water on the surface.

How was this exoplanet duo discovered?

To find planets in other solar systems, astronomers can look for the dimming of a star's light when a planet passes in front of it, disrupting our view. However, this is difficult to achieve when a star is as bright as our own sun, because planets are comparatively darker, but easier to detect if the host star is cooler and darker, like red dwarfs.

Figure 1: A conceptual rendering of the discovery. (Credit: Astrobiology Center/MuSCAT team)

According to what has been made known, SPECULOOS 2c has a radius 30-40% greater than Earth's and it takes just 8.4 days to orbit its star (Earth takes 365 days).

It has a characteristic, however, very different from Earth. They suffer from gravitational coupling. That is, there is one side of the planet that is always day and the other is always night.

Example of a celestial body "trapped" gravitationally".

Despite these differences, the team estimates that it appears to be the second most habitable planet discovered so far, after TRAPPIST-1e, outside our solar system, and could still potentially have liquid water on its surface.

The outer planet is on the inner edge of what is called the habitable zone, a bit like Earth. From my calculations, the system is the second best at the moment for studying the weather or discovering the atmosphere with an instrument like the JWST.

Said Amaury Triaud, a scholar of exoplanets.

There is a list of possible exoplanets that could be habitable

In 2021, NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which searches through space for exoplanets, released a list of newly discovered potential planets.

One of these planets, TOI-4306.01, also called LP 890-9b, caught the attention of Triaud and his team, so followed with ground-based telescopes around the world for more than 600 hours observation point on your host star.

Comparison image between the sun and the star found and the planets facing the Earth

In addition to confirming TESS's initial discovery, they also discovered a second planet, SPECULOOS-2c. They were unable to measure any details other than its radius and orbit, but based on the proximity of its star's orbits and its estimated radiation, and a projected mass from its radius based on what we know about other exoplanets, Triaud and his team calculated that he was directly in the habitable zone.

The definition of a habitable zone for a given star changes depending on that star's properties, but the researchers hope that observations with JWST can help them fine-tune their definition and reveal much more, such as the masses of planets and whether they have atmospheres. .

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