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TESS finds Super-Earth in habitable zone around nearby red dwarf
This illustration shows one way that planet TOI-715 b, a super-Earth in the habitable zone around its star, might appear to a nearby observer.
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TESS finds Super-Earth in habitable zone around nearby red dwarf
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Feb 01, 2024

In a significant advancement in the field of exoplanetary science, astronomers have unveiled the discovery of a new 'super-Earth', TOI-715 b, orbiting within the habitable zone of a red dwarf star. This discovery, made possible by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), has ignited interest in the astronomical community due to its potential implications in the ongoing search for life beyond our solar system.

TOI-715 b, approximately 137 light-years away, is a planet that challenges our current understanding of planetary formation and habitability. With a diameter about one and a half times that of Earth, it resides in what is known as the "conservative" habitable zone of its parent star. This zone is a specific range from the star where liquid water could potentially exist on the planet's surface, a key factor for supporting life as we understand it.

The planet's orbit around a red dwarf, a type of star smaller and cooler than our Sun, is of particular interest. Red dwarfs like TOI-715's parent star are abundant in our galaxy and are known for hosting small, rocky planets. Their smaller size and cooler temperature allow planets to orbit closer to the star while still maintaining conditions amenable to liquid water. TOI-715 b's 19-day orbit presents an intriguing scenario where a year on this planet is significantly shorter than on Earth.

The importance of this discovery is heightened by the capabilities of new spaceborne instruments, such as the James Webb Space Telescope. Equipped to analyze planetary atmospheres and surface conditions, these instruments are pivotal in assessing the habitability of planets like TOI-715 b. The tight orbit of this planet around its star facilitates more frequent observations, enhancing the chances of detecting atmospheric signatures indicative of habitable conditions.

There is also potential excitement surrounding a second, smaller planet in the same system. If confirmed, this Earth-sized planet could add another candidate to the list of potentially habitable exoplanets.

The international team led by Georgina Dransfield from the University of Birmingham has published their findings in the "Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society." This discovery, leveraging an international array of facilities including Gemini-South and the TRAPPIST-south telescope, marks a notable achievement for TESS, which has been instrumental in expanding our knowledge of exoplanets in habitable zones since its launch in 2018.

This discovery not only adds to the growing catalog of exoplanets but also offers a tantalizing glimpse into the possibilities of finding life beyond Earth. The relatively close proximity of TOI-715 b, combined with its location in the conservative habitable zone, places it in a prime position for future studies, especially regarding its atmospheric composition and potential for water.

As the quest for understanding exoplanets continues, discoveries like TOI-715 b underscore the importance of technological advancements and international collaboration in space research. With each new discovery, we inch closer to answering the age-old question: are we alone in the universe Related Links
ExoPlanets at NASA
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth

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