NASA spots one-of-a-kind ‘ocean planet’ dubbed ‘Super-Earth’ in major space breakthrough

NASA spots one-of-a-kind ‘ocean planet’ dubbed ‘Super-Earth’ in major space breakthrough

08/25/2022

NASA reveals first image from James Webb Space Telescope

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Officially called TOI-1452 b, the exoplanet is thought to be 70 percent larger than our own. While further conclusions still need to be drawn up, it could be a huge rock, with little or no atmosphere. But it is quite possible that the planet has a very deep ocean.

NASA, which has called the planet a “Super-Earth”, reports: “About 70 percent larger than Earth, and roughly five times as massive, its density could be consistent with having a very deep ocean.

“But more follow-up will be needed.

“The planet also might be a huge rock, with little or no atmosphere. It could even be a rocky planet with an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium.”

The planet was spotted orbiting one of two stars in a binary system out in the Draco constellation, in what is thought to be a 1,400-year orbit.

It was found in a mission undertaken by an international team of scientists led by the University of Montreal, who used TESS, which was launched by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket back in 2018.

TESS surveys the entire sky to hunt for planetary systems similar to our own, and in this case it helped to guide the researchers to the “Super-Earth”.

It also showed a slight decrease in brightness every 11 days.

Prof René Doyon from the University of Montreal and Director of iREx and of the Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic (OMM), said: “I’m extremely proud of this discovery because it shows the high calibre of our researchers and instrumentation.

“It is thanks to the OMM, a special instrument designed in our labs called SPIRou and an innovative analytic method developed by our research team that we were able to detect this one-of-a-kind exoplanet.”

TESS is on a mission to survey 200,000 of the brightest stars close to the sun in a quest to discover exoplanets.

NASA has said it has already been able to identify thousands of the planets outside our solar system.

Charles Cadieux, an astronomer who does ground follow-up observations of planets identified by TESS to confirm their characteristics, said: “TOI-1452 b is one of the best candidates for an ocean planet that we have found to date.

“Its radius and mass suggest a much lower density than what one would expect for a planet that is basically made up of metal and rock, like Earth.”

Now, follow-up observations are expected to be carried out by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

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Prof Doyon said: “Our observations with the Webb Telescope will be essential to better understanding TOI-1452 b. As soon as we can, we will book time on the Webb to observe this strange and wonderful world.”

It comes as the James Webb Telescope discovered carbon dioxide on an exoplanet for the first time, in what was one of its first observations.

Called the Wasp 39b, scientists said it showed a clear signal of plenty of carbon dioxide.

Zafar Rustamkulov from the Webb telescope Transiting Exoplanet Community Early Release Science team, said: “As soon as the data appeared on my screen, the whopping carbon dioxide feature grabbed me. It was a special moment, crossing an important threshold in exoplanet sciences.”

The article “TOI-1452 b: SPIRou and TESS reveal a super-Earth in a temperate orbit transiting an M4 dwarf” was published in The Astronomical Journal on August 12.

NASA has said it has already been able to identify thousands of the planets outside our solar system.

Charles Cadieux, an astronomer who does ground follow-up observations of planets identified by TESS to confirm their characteristics, said: “TOI-1452 b is one of the best candidates for an ocean planet that we have found to date.

“Its radius and mass suggest a much lower density than what one would expect for a planet that is basically made up of metal and rock, like Earth.”

Now, follow-up observations are expected to be carried out by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

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