Research

TESS Detects Potentially Habitable Super-Earth In The Neighborhood

TESS Detects Potentially Habitable Super-Earth In The Neighborhood

The middle planet, GJ 357C, has a mass approximately 3.4 times Earth's, and orbits around its star every 9.1 days.

The planet was spotted by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

"This is exciting, as this is humanity's first nearby super-Earth that could harbour life", said Lisa Kaltenegger, the director of the Carl Sagan Institute.

A paper describing the findings was published on Wednesday, in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics and is available online.

The planet rotates around a small star in the constellation Hydra, reports Business Insider.

However, the second exoplanet discovered by scientists named GJ 357 can be considered as a potential candidate to find alien life, as it lies in the outer edge of the star's habitable zone.

Researchers said that GJ 357 d has a thick atmosphere, so it could maintain liquid water on the surface like planet Earth could.

The scientists came across GJ 357 d and one other planet orbiting the star when they were trying to confirm the existence of the satellite's first-discovered exoplanet*, called GJ 357 b, which can not host life due to its 490 degrees surface temperature.

"I think it's an wonderful discovery", Lisa Kaltenegger, from the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell, said.

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NASA's successor to the Kepler's satellite is equipped with four cameras allowing it to view 85 percent of the entire sky, as it searches exoplanets orbiting stars less than 300 light-years away.

The newly-discovered exoplanet is substantially bigger than our home planet and, as Kaltenegger believes, it offers scientists an opportunity to observe and analyze the circumstances surrounding Earth's heavyweight planetary cousins.

The TESS space telescope, which was created to search for exoplanets, detected the planet in early 2019. It orbits the host star every 55.7 days at a proximity of about one-fifth of the distance between the Earth and the sun.

Follow-up observations from the ground led to the discovery of two more exoplanetary siblings: GJ 357 c and GJ 357 d.

"If the planet has a dense atmosphere, which will take future studies to determine, it could trap enough heat to warm the planet and allow liquid water on its surface", said Diana Kossakowski of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany. When researchers looked for the new worlds in February, they found that there was a star that dims every 3.9 days, hinting at the presence of transiting exoplanets.

Another is a close, transiting exoplanet and is ideal for measuring the composition of an atmosphere.

The doctoral student in charge of leading the research at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands, Rafael Luque, said: "It took TESS to point us to an interesting star where we could uncover them [the planets]".

It is not the first potentially habitable planet to have been discovered close to us.