Two Super-Earths discovered just 11 light-years away
The researchers believe that one of the planets, which is in the ‘habitable zone’, could support life.
The two super-Earths orbit a small, cool star about 100 light-years from our planet. The star, named LP 890-9, hosts two exoplanets named LP 890-9b and LP 890-9c, the first of which was originally detected by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). It is the second coldest star that has a planet, after the famous TRAPPIST-1.
The rare discovery comes thanks to an international team of researchers in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. In their study, the scientists showed that the system’s inner planet, LP 890-9b, is about 30 percent larger than Earth and completes one orbit around the star in just 2.7 days. The initial planet candidates were confirmed and characterized by the SPECULOOS (Search for Habitable Planets Eclipsing Ultracool Stars) telescope, which is based at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile and Tenerife. Their cameras are very sensitive to the light emitted by cooler stars, so they can observe them with very high precision.
Laetitia Delrez, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Liège, explained: “TESS uses the transit method to search for exoplanets while monitoring the brightness of thousands of stars, looking for a slight dimming that may be caused by planets passing in front of stars. “However, follow-up with ground-based telescopes is often required to confirm the planetary properties of detected candidates and to improve measurements of their size and orbital properties.”
Using the SPECULOOS telescope to search the system for other transiting planets that TESS may have missed, they identified another hot, rocky world. LP 890-9c is about 40% larger than Earth, has a longer orbital period of about 8.5 days, and is in the “habitable zone” around the star.
“The habitable zone is a concept that a planet with Earth-like geological and atmospheric conditions would have surface temperatures that would maintain liquid water for billions of years. This gives us the license to look further and discover more.” planet has an atmosphere and, if so, study its content and evaluate its habitability”, the expert clarified.
The SPECULOOS telescope detected a second exoplanet, LP 890-9c, while observing its star, so the researchers renamed it SPECULOOS-2c. In fact, it’s associated with the habitable zone around the star, meaning it’s neither too hot nor too cold for extraterrestrial life, but before confirming it’s habitable, researchers need to study its atmosphere, possibly using the Space Telescope. James Webb.
“It is important to detect as many temperate terrestrial worlds as possible to study the diversity of exoplanet climates and ultimately be in a position to measure how often biology has arisen in the Cosmos,” added Amaury Triaud, professor of exoplanetology at the University of Birmingham and co-author of the study.