Science

Space agency spots closest ’habitable’ Earth-like planet yet — NASA exoplanet discovery

Space agency spots closest ’habitable’ Earth-like planet yet — NASA exoplanet discovery”

Telescope NASA TESS have discovered a new exoplanet, which is located at a distance of 31 light years from Earth.

Although its density is not known, yet, chances are it could be a rocky world like its neighbour and, if it turns out GJ 357 d has a dense atmosphere for example, which future studies could help determine, "it could trap enough heat to warm the planet and allow liquid water on its surface", said co-author Diana Kossakowski at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.

"With a thick atmosphere, the planet GJ 357 d could maintain liquid water on its surface like Earth, and we could pick out signs of life with telescopes that will soon be online", Kaltenegger said.

The researchers don't know if the super-Earth is rocky like our own planet, but it orbits the star every 55.7 days and has a temperature of negative 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

The planet lies in the star system GJ 357, which hosts an M-type dwarf sun that is only about a third of the size of the sun.

The first exoplanet discovered around the star was GJ 357 b. The farthest-known planet, named GJ 357 d, is especially intriguing. This isn't even the first Earth-like planet that TESS has found.

Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA's Headquarters, said: "We learned from Kepler that there are more planets than stars in our sky, and now TESS will open our eyes to the variety of planets around some of the closest stars".

While trying to confirm the presence of a potentially habitable super-Earth, researchers discovered two additional worlds.

The middle planet, GJ 357C, has a mass approximately 3.4 times Earth's, and orbits around its star every 9.1 days. TESS did not observe transits from this planet, which suggests its orbit is slightly tilted - perhaps by less than 1 degree - relative to the hot Earth's orbit, so it never passes across the star from our perspective.

"The minimum thing we had to achieve for the mission in order to satisfy the fundamental scientific requirements that we were selected by NASA to fulfill was primarily based on making 2-minute cadences [observation intervals] of preselected stars", Ricker told Space.com.

The planet rotates around a small star in the constellation Hydra, reports Business Insider. Astronomers have searched for planets around bright stars using radial velocity data for decades, and they often make these lengthy, precise observations publicly available for use by other astronomers.

And this goal benefits from the extensive collaboration practiced by this global community of researchers, said Patricia Boyd, head of the Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.



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