NASA planet hunter finds Earth-sized world in ‘Goldilocks zone’

Author: 
AFP
ID: 
1578376664268009600
Tue, 2020-01-07 05:40

WASHINGTON: NASA said Monday that its planet hunter satellite
TESS had discovered an Earth-sized world within the habitable range
of its star, which could allow the presence of liquid water.
The planet, named “TOI 700 d,” is relatively close to Earth —
only 100 light years away, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
announced during the annual American Astronomical Society meeting
in Honolulu, Hawaii.
“TESS was designed and launched specifically to find Earth-sized
planets orbiting nearby stars,” said Paul Hertz, NASA
astrophysics division director.
TESS initially misclassified the star, which meant the planets
appeared larger and hotter than they actually are. But several
amateur astronomers, including high school student Alton Spencer
— who works with members of the TESS team — identified the
error.

Planet hunter @NASA_TESS
spots Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a two-sun system
100 light-years away: https://t.co/gekGJYQXB6#AAS235
pic.twitter.com/ucsMBmod39

— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL)
January 7, 2020

“When we corrected the star’s parameters, the sizes of its
planets dropped, and we realized the outermost one was about the
size of Earth and in the habitable zone,” said Emily Gilbert, a
graduate student at the University of Chicago.
The discovery was later confirmed by the Spitzer Space
Telescope.
A few other similar planets have been discovered before, notably by
the former Kepler Space Telescope, but this is the first discovered
by TESS, which was launched in 2018.
TESS stabilizes on one area of the sky to detect whether objects
— planets — pass in front of stars, which causes a temporary
drop in the stars’ luminosity. This allows TESS to infer the
presence of a planet, its size and orbit.
Star TOI 700 is small, about 40 percent of our Sun’s size and
only about half as hot.
TESS discovered three planets in orbit, named TOI 700 b, c and d.
Only “d” is in the so-called habitable zone, not too far from
and not too close to the star, where the temperature could allow
the presence of liquid water.
It is about 20 percent larger than Earth and orbits its star in 37
days. “d” receives 86 percent of the energy that Earth receives
from the Sun.

@NASAExoplanets Twitter

@NASAExoplanets Twitter

It remains to be seen what d is made of. Researchers have generated
models based on the size and type of star in order to predict d’s
atmospheric composition and surface temperature.
In one simulation, NASA explained, the planet is covered in oceans
with a “dense, carbon-dioxide-dominated atmosphere similar to
what scientists suspect surrounded Mars when it was young.”
The planet is tidally locked to the star, meaning that one side
always faces the star, as is the case with the Moon and
Earth.
This synchronous rotation meant that, in another model, one side of
the planet was constantly covered in clouds.
A third simulation predicted an all-land world, where winds flow
from the planet’s dark side to its light one.
Multiple astronomers will observe the planet with other
instruments, in order to obtain new data that may match one of
NASA’s models.

Main category: 
Tags: 

NASA finds Indian moon lander with help of amateur space
enthusiastMoon back in NASA’s court 50 years after 1st lunar
landing
Source: *FS – All – Science News Net
NASA planet hunter finds Earth-sized world in ‘Goldilocks zone’