Potentially Habitable Super-Earth Found

An international team of scientists recently announced the discovery of two new exoplanets, one of which is a potentially habitable super-Earth.

Beth Johnson

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IMAGE: Comparison between the LP 890–9 system and the inner Solar System. The LP 890–9 system is much more compact: its two planets could easily fit inside the orbit of Mercury, the innermost planet of our Solar System. CREDIT: Adeline Deward

Collaborations are important, and an international team of scientists recently announced the discovery of two new exoplanets, one of which is a potentially habitable super-Earth. The parent star is LP 890–0, which is also cataloged as TESS Object of Interest 4306 and SPECULOOS-2, and this star is a very cold red dwarf. In fact, it’s the second coolest star we’ve found planets orbiting, after the famous TRAPPIST-1 system.

The first planet was discovered in data collected by the TESS space telescope, and it’s the closer of the two planets, orbiting in just 2.7 days. It’s also about 1.3 times the size of Earth. And here is where making data accessible becomes important. Using the SPECULOOS telescopes here on Earth, researchers were able to confirm this planet and pin down some of its characteristics. And they were able to detect that second planet, which didn’t appear in the TESS data.

The second planet is about 1.4 times the size of Earth and orbits in 8.5 days — blistering fast by our solar system’s standards. However, that particular orbit also puts the planet in the star’s potentially habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the surface of the rocky world.

And that gives us another great candidate for observations with JWST to characterize the planet’s atmosphere, second only to several of the TRAPPIST-1 planets.

This research was published in Astronomy & Astrophysics with lead author Laetitia Delrez.

More Information

University of Birmingham press release

University of Liège press release

“Two temperate super-Earths transiting a nearby late-type M dwarf,” L. Delrez et al., to be published in Astronomy & Astrophysics (preprint)

This story was written for the Daily Space podcast/YouTube series. Want more news from myself, Dr. Pamela Gay, and Erik Madaus? Check out DailySpace.org.

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Beth Johnson

Planetary scientist, podcast host. Communication specialist for SETI Institute and Planetary Science Institute. Buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/planetarypan