Astronomers have discovered a nearby exoplanet that could turn out to be the first water-covered world.
TOI-1452 b is an exoplanet slightly larger and more massive than Earth about 100 light-years away from our planet in the constellation Draco. In a document published on Wednesday a The Astronomical MagazineUniversity of Montreal researchers determine that the planet’s mass suggests it is largely made up of something less dense than rock but denser than gas, a potential sign of a global ocean.
“TOI-1452 b is one of the best candidates for an ocean planet we’ve found so far,” said the Université de Montréal astrophysics PhD student. Charles Cadieux he said in a statement. “Its radius and mass suggest a much lower density than would be expected for a planet that is primarily made of metal and rock, like Earth.”
TOI-1452 b first came to the attention of astronomers via NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Exploration Satellite, or Tess spacecraft, which studies distant stars for infalls of their light that mean an exoplanet passing in front of the star, which is in transit. Data from Tess suggested the existence of an exoplanet, but the sighting was not definitive.
The star TOI-1452 b orbits is part of a binary star system, and Tess does not have the power to resolve individual stars in this system. However, the University’s Observatory du Mont-Mégantic (OMM), together with new analytical methods, was able to confirm that TOI-1452 b exists.
“WMO played a crucial role in confirming the nature of this signal and estimating the planet’s radius,” said Cadieux. “This was no routine check. We needed to make sure that the signal detected by TESS was indeed caused by an exoplanet orbiting TOI-1452, the larger of the two stars in this binary system.”
An instrument on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii then measured the mass of the planet.
Unlike Earth, which is a mostly rocky and metallic planet with water covering about 70% of its surface, TOI-1452 b appears to be made largely, but not entirely, of water, with around 30% of its mass coming from liquid. It is a kind of deep global ocean more akin to the deep waters thought to lie beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s moon Enceladus than to Earth’s oceans; water represents less than 1% of the mass of our planet.
Exoplanets are located outside our solar system.
It’s not yet certain that TOI-1452 b is an ocean world, and what that might mean for the chances of discovering alien life in its waters, but researchers say the James Webb Space Telescope could soon help unravel the mystery. . of this strange new watery world.
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