A near-“super-Earth” exoplanet was recently discovered just 137 light-years from Earth, NASA announced, prompting scientists to dig deeper into whether it has the conditions needed to sustain life.
NASA confirmed in a report that the planet, called TOI-715 b, is about one and a half times the width of Earth and orbits within a conservative “habitable zone” around its parent star. press release last week.
NASA defines the habitable zone as the distance from a star that could give a planet the right temperature for liquid water to form on its surface. Astronomers noted that other factors would have to line up for the planet to have a suitable atmosphere, although the planet's position in the region puts it in a “prime position” from its parent star.
Its parent star is a red dwarf that is smaller and cooler than Earth's Sun, allowing the planet to “come closer” and have a tighter orbit. This orbit means that the planet's “year” is equal to 19 Earth days, which makes it easy to discover and monitor the planet repeatedly, according to the agency.
NASA said the planet was discovered by TESS, or the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which was launched in 2018. TESS has discovered a series of other exoplanets in the habitable zone that can be closely observed by NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.
The discovered system may also include a second Earth-sized planet, which may also be within the habitable zone. NASA indicated that if this is confirmed, it will be the smallest planet in the habitable zone discovered by TESS so far.
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