Although – relative to cosmic conditions – it is close to us, it has been out of reach for decades. TOI-1452b, the name of an exoplanet discovered by scientists, orbits a star in a binary system 100 light years from the solar system. Researchers from the University of Montreal report that its size and mass could indicate that a large portion of its surface is covered in water.
Exoplanets are planets outside the solar system that orbit a star other than the Sun as we know it. This particular image is 100 light-years away and appears to be the best candidate for a second Earth title so far. The scientists who said it called it TOI-1452b, and said measurements suggested its entire surface might be covered by ocean.
Researchers have speculated for years whether such worlds are possible, but they haven’t found them yet.
To study the atmosphere of an exoplanet in more detail, scientists want to continue monitoring it with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). But the preliminary results published in The Astronomical Journal are already intriguing.
“This study reports the discovery and characterization of the exoplanet TOI-1452b,” said Charles Cudio, a researcher at the University of Montreal. Our modeling results and the fact that the planet is exposed to moderate radiation make TOI-1452b an aquatic world.
Two telescopes were combined
Why did you avoid noticing before? An exoplanet has been found orbiting a pair of mysterious little red dwarfs separated by just 97 AU. It’s so little that the two stars seem to be one.
However, TESS is sensitive enough to detect the regular faint dips in the star’s light that indicate the presence of TOI-1452b. Such transitions of an exoplanet against the background of the star are known as transits. To confirm their assumptions, the researchers used a highly sensitive instrument from the Mont Megantic Observatory in Canada, designed specifically to detect crossings.
Observations from both telescopes revealed that this part indeed Outer Space There is an exoplanet orbiting one of the stars in a binary system.
TOI-1452b relative to the Earth
By looking at how much light the star emits and then how darker it gets as an exoplanet passes in front of it, the scientists were able to estimate its potential size. They say TOI-1452b could be relatively small – 1,672 times the size of the Earth. This size classifies it as super-Earth – rocky exoplanets that do not necessarily have the same conditions as on Earth.
It’s only 11 days long, which seems crazy from the perspective of our planet. But since its star is colder and darker than the Sun, the exoplanet is in the center of the star’s moderate influence zone. And in the perfect place: not so far that its water freezes, nor so close that it turns into gas.
After examining the planet, researchers decided to learn more about its star. They were particularly interested in the so-called radial velocity – the way it moves under the influence of the gravity of an exoplanet. All two objects in the system’s orbit revolve around a common center of gravity.
This movement is manifested by changes in the star’s light. Moreover, it allows astronomers to calculate the mass of an orbiting object by determining the force of motion. In this way, it was possible to calculate that the mass of TOI-1452b is 4.82 times greater than that of our planet.
This is where it gets really fun
Once we know the object’s size and mass, we can estimate its average density. In the case of TOI-1452b, it is 5.6 grams per cubic centimeter. This is slightly larger than Earth, and is 5.5 grams per cubic centimeter. However, the researchers reported that the Earth-like density of a body with a greater mass indicates that the exoplanet consists of lighter matter.
“TOI-1452b is one of the best candidates for an oceanic planet we’ve discovered so far,” says Cadiux. “Its size and mass indicate a much lower density than would be expected for a planet of metal and rock,” he adds.
By modeling the interior of the building, the researchers found that 30 percent of its mass could be water. That’s a lot – for comparison, in the case of Earth, water is less than 1% of its mass. Therefore, the composition of TOI-1452b in this respect looks closer to Europa – one of the moons of Jupiter or Enceladus – a natural satellite of Saturn.
From the perspective of space
However, with current ground technology, it is difficult to determine exactly what the TOI-1452b consists of. This is where the JWST – Webb Telescope comes in. As an exoplanet continues to pass between us and its light source, scientists want to look at the object’s likely atmosphere, if it contains one at all. The telescope must be sensitive enough to detect variation in this light, giving scientists a chance to determine what the atmosphere of an exoplanet is made of.
“Our observations using the Webb telescope will be crucial to a better understanding of TOI-1452b,” said astronomer Rene Doyon of the University of Montreal. “As soon as possible, we’ll keep Webb to keep an eye on this strange and wonderful world,” he concluded.
Main image source: Benoit Gougeon, University of Montreal.
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