Super-Earths found 100 light-years from Earth; 1 may support life
Thanks to scientific advancements, we are able to unlock new secrets of this massive universe almost every other week. Astronomers have now discovered two super-Earths around 100 light-years away from Earth. The two planets orbit a cool dwarf star called LP 890-9 (also known as TOI-4306 or SPECULOOS-2) and one of them lies in the habitable zone. It might be capable of supporting life.
Why does this story matter?
- Climate change caused by large-scale industrialization is slowly killing the Earth and one day life on this planet may cease to exist.
- This is one of the main reasons behind the quest for exoplanets. Thanks to new astronomical findings, we can eventually be in a "position to measure how frequently biology has emerged in the cosmos."
- We may get a new home out there.
A brief look at the planets
The first planet LP 890-9b is roughly 30% larger than Earth and orbits its star in 2.7 days. The second one—LP 890-9c—is 40% bigger than the Earth in size and takes 8.5 days to complete an orbit. Astronomers believe the second one lies in LP 890-9's habitable zone. Super-Earths are extrasolar planets with more mass than Earth but lighter than Neptune and Uranus.
How were the planets detected?
The LP 890-9b was detected by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). The data was later confirmed by the telescopes of the University of Birmingham's Search for Habitable Planets Eclipsing Ultra-cool Stars (SPECULOOS) project. During the analysis, SPECULOOS found out the LP 890-9c, which was missed by TESS. It might sustain life despite being only 3.7 million miles away from its star.
What does habitable zone mean?
Leader of SPECULOOS group, Amaury Triaud, describes a habitable zone as "a concept under which a planet with similar geological and atmospheric conditions as Earth, would have a surface temperature allowing water to remain liquid for billions of years." "We can observe and find out whether the planet has an atmosphere, and if so, to study its content and assess its habitability," he added.
Why do scientists believe that LP 890-9c could sustain life?
The star LP 890-9 is roughly 6.5 times smaller than the Sun and has half its surface temperature. The planet LP 890-9c orbits the star at a distance roughly 10 times less than that of Mercury around our Sun. However, it receives considerably less amount of cosmic radiation. This might permit liquid water to thrive on its surface provided it has a sufficient atmosphere.