November 28, 2022

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This type of planet could be ideal for life.  It is very popular and easy to locate

This type of planet could be ideal for life. It is very popular and easy to locate

These are two exoplanets falling this summer thanks to the operation of the TESS (Exoplanet Survey Satellite) telescope. These objects orbit in the so-called habitable zones of their stars, which means that their surfaces have the right conditions to keep water in a liquid state.

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The first planet is 30% larger than Earth and orbits its star in less than three days. The second is 70% larger than Earth and may contain a deep ocean. Both have the largest mass of our planet, but at the same time less massive than ice giants such as Uranus and Neptune.

As Embi explains, most super-Earths orbit around dwarf stars that are less massive and live much longer than the Sun, while generating cooler temperatures. For every star like the Sun, there are hundreds of cooler dwarf stars. So far, Super-Earth has been able to locate 40% of the “dwarves,” indicating that they are very common. Therefore, it can be estimated that in the Milky Way itself there are tens of billions of super-Earths orbiting in the habitable zones of their stars.

Giant planets are planets with a mass greater than Earth

And since water is important for terrestrial life, its presence is the basis for research. Interestingly, the nearest super-Earth is located six light-years away from our planet. On the other hand, no single body in the solar system has a mass between Earth and Neptune. Due to their large size, these giant lands are relatively easy to spot and study. They can be located using two common techniques: detecting the effect of a planet’s gravity on its star and short-term dips in the star’s brightness as the planet passes between it and the observer.

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How does Embi see the perfect planet? From a geological perspective, the most habitable option would be roughly twice the land mass and be 20%-30% more by volume. It would also have oceans shallow enough for light to stimulate life all the way to the sea floor, and an average temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. On the other hand, an atmosphere thicker than the atmosphere will act as an insulating covering. Orbiting a star older than the Sun, such a planet will have more time to develop and develop life, while a strong magnetic field will protect it from cosmic rays.

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A super-Earth might, in theory at least, have such properties. In order to detect life on distant exoplanets, astronomers will search for what are called biosignatures, that is, byproducts of biological processes that can be detected in the atmosphere. The James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful instrument astronomers have to date, can do just that. Upcoming telescopes such as the Giant Magellan Telescope, the Very Large Telescope and the Thirty Meter Telescope should provide even greater opportunities for breakthrough.