24/7 Space News
Distant star TOI-700 has two potentially habitable planets
The TOI-700 system has a large habitable zone, and the newly discovered TOI-700 e, not shown in this image, orbits the star along the inner edge of the habitable zone. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Distant star TOI-700 has two potentially habitable planets
by Joey Rodriguez and Andrew Vanderburg
East Lansing MI (SPX) Mar 13, 2023

NASA recently announced the discovery of a new, Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a nearby star called TOI-700. We are two of the astronomers who led the discovery of this planet, called TOI-700 e. TOI-700 e is just over 100 light years from Earth - too far away for humans to visit - but we do know that it is similar in size to the Earth, likely rocky in composition and could potentially support life.

You've probably heard about some of the many other exoplanet discoveries in recent years. In fact, TOI-700 e is one of two potentially habitable planets just in the TOI-700 star system.

Habitable planets are those that are just the right distance from their star to have a surface temperature that could sustain liquid water. While it is always exciting to find a new, potentially habitable planet far from Earth, the focus of exoplanet research is shifting away from simply discovering more planets. Instead, researchers are focusing their efforts on finding and studying systems most likely to answer key questions about how planets form, how they evolve, and whether life might exist in the universe. TOI-700 e stands out from many of these other planet discoveries because it is well suited for future studies that could help answer big question about the conditions for life outside the solar system.

From 1 to 5,000
Astronomers discovered the first exoplanet around a Sun-like star in 1995. The field of exoplanet discovery and research has been rapidly evolving ever since.

At first, astronomers were finding only a few exoplanets each year, but the combination of new cutting-edge facilities focused on exoplanet science with improved detection sensitivity have led to astronomers' discovering hundreds of exoplanets each year. As detection methods and tools have improved, the amount of information scientists can learn about these planets has increased. In 30 years, scientists have gone from barely being able to detect exoplanets to characterizing key chemical clues in their atmospheres, like water, using facilities like the James Webb Space Telescope.

Today, there are more than 5,000 known exoplanets, ranging from gas giants to small rocky worlds. And perhaps most excitingly, astronomers have now found about a dozen exoplanets that are likely rocky and orbiting within the habitable zones of their respective stars.

Astronomers have even discovered a few systems - like TOI-700 - that have more than one planet orbiting in the habitable zone of their star. We call these keystone systems.

A pair of habitable siblings
TOI-700 first made Distant star TOI-700 has two potentially habitable planets orbiting it - making it an excellent candidate in the search for lifes when our team announced the discovery of three small planets orbiting the star in early 2020. Using a combination of observations from NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite mission and the Spitzer Space Telescope we discovered these planets by measuring small dips in the amount of light coming from TOI-700. These dips in light are caused by planets passing in front of the small, cool, red dwarf star at the center of the system.

By taking precise measurements of the changes in light, we were able to determine that at least three small planets are in the TOI-700 system, with hints of a possible fourth. We could also determine that the third planet from the star, TOI-700 d, orbits within its star's habitable zone, where the temperature of the planet's surface could allow for liquid water.

The Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite observed TOI-700 for another year, from July 2020 through May 2021, and using these observations our team found the fourth planet, TOI-700 e. TOI-700 e is 95% the size of the Earth and, much to our surprise, orbits on the inner edge of the star's habitable zone, between planets c and d. Our discovery of this planet makes TOI-700 one of only a few known systems with two Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zone of their star. The fact that it is relatively close to Earth also makes it one of the most accessible systems in terms of future characterization.

The bigger questions and tools to answer them
With the successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, astronomers are now able to start characterizing the atmospheric chemistry of exoplanets and search for clues about whether life exists on them. In the near future, a number of massive, ground-based telescopes will also help reveal further details about the composition of planets far from the solar system.

But even with powerful new telescopes, collecting enough light to learn these details requires pointing the telescope at a system for a long period of time. With thousands of valuable scientific questions to answer, astronomers need to know where to look. And that is the goal of our team, to find the most interesting and promising exoplanets to study with the Webb telescope and future facilities.

Earth is currently the only data point in the search for life. It is possible alien life could be vastly different from life as we know it, but for now, places similar to the home of humanity with liquid water on the surface offer a good starting point. We believe that keystone systems with multiple planets that are likely candidates for hosting life - like TOI-700 - offer the best use of observation time. By further studying TOI-700, our team will be able to learn more about what makes a planet habitable, how rocky planets similar to Earth form and evolve, and the mechanisms that shaped the solar system. The more astronomers know about how star systems like TOI-700 and our own solar system work, the better the chances of detecting life out in the cosmos.

Related Links
Michigan State University
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
Can artificial intelligence help find life on Mars or icy worlds?
Mountain View CA (SPX) Mar 07, 2023
Wouldn't finding life on other worlds be easier if we knew exactly where to look? Researchers have limited opportunities to collect samples on Mars or elsewhere or access remote sensing instruments when hunting for life beyond Earth. In a paper published in Nature Astronomy, an interdisciplinary study led by SETI Institute Senior Research Scientist Kim Warren-Rhodes, mapped the sparse life hidden away in salt domes, rocks and crystals at Salar de Pajonales at the boundary of the Chilean Atacama Desert a ... read more

SpaceX cargo resupply mission CRS-27 scheduled for launch Tuesday

NASA SpaceX Crew-5 splashes down after 5-month mission

China to revamp science, tech in face of foreign 'suppression'

DLR goes all in with new technology at the Startup Factory

SpaceX launches Cargo Dragon carrying supplies and experiments to ISS

Arianespace inks deal to launch at least two Vega-C rockets

Private firm to launch maiden rocket flight in Spain

Launch of Relativity Space's 3D-printed rocket aborted

Engineers keep an eye on fuel supply of NASA's oldest Mars orbiter

ExoMars rover testing moves ahead and deep down

ExoMars: Back on track for the Red Planet

Building on Luna and Mars with StarCrete the double stength concrete

China's Shenzhou-15 astronauts to return in June

China's space technology institute sees launches of 400 spacecraft

Shenzhou XV crew takes second spacewalk

China conducts ignition test in Mengtian space lab module

LeoLabs expands space safety coverage with new site in Argentina.

Spacetime will orchestrate LEO network for Rivada constellation

HawkEye 360's latest satellite cluster begins operation

SatixFy and Kythera Space solutions partner to deliver advanced payload solutions for LEO constellations

Antenova's tiny GNSS module with integrated antenna, high precision and low power

Ball Aerospace prototype payload to provide on-orbit data processing

Student-built satellite uses 'beach ball' for an antenna

Airbus partners with Kythera for OneSat mission sizing software

Rutgers scientists identify substance that may have sparked life on earth

Distant star TOI-700 has two potentially habitable planets

DLR Gottingen helps in the search for signs of life in space

CHEOPS mission extended

Inspiring mocktail menu served up by Space Juice winners

Study finds ocean currents may affect rotation of Europa's icy crust

New Horizons team discusses discoveries from the Kuiper Belt

New Horizons team adds AI to Kuiper Belt Object search

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.