An international research team has discovered two so-called “super-Earths”, one of the two exoplanets could offer comparatively favorable conditions for life similar to Earth. That explains the group led by Laetitia Delrez from the University of Liège. The interior of the two exoplanets named LP 890-9b and TOI-4306b was found by the TESS space telescope. Follow-up observations with the SPECULOOS (Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) instrument then found the much more exciting outer neighbor LP 890-9c. The team thinks it could be as habitable as the famous exoplanets in the TRAPPIST system or even surpass them.
Particularly well suited for further research
According to the analyses, both exoplanets of the system, which is about 100 light-years away, have radii of about 8,500 km, making them about 40% larger than Earth. They orbit a comparatively small and cold star; exoplanets have only been found around a single, even colder star – TRAPPIST. Both orbit the star quite closely, but would still get very little radiation, the research team writes. Exoplanets in this environment are particularly well suited for analyzing the atmosphere and searching for possible traces of life.
Comparison of the star system with the inner solar system
(Bild: Adeline Deward (RISE-Illustration))
Although the distance between the outer of the two exoplanets and its star still corresponds to a tenth of that of Mercury to the sun, it is at the inner limit of its habitable zone. Liquid water could therefore exist on its surface and thus conditions that led to the emergence of life on earth. The team believes the conditions may be even more favorable than the data suggest. They published their work in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
The team writes that the data entitles them to continue exploring the exoplanet, ideally with the James Webb Space Telescope. When it comes to the precise delineation of the habitable zone, models differ, and the discovery of LP 890-9c offers a unique opportunity to better understand “the habitability conditions around the smallest and coldest stars in our Sun’s neighborhood.” . Of the earth-like exoplanets found so far that could harbor life, only those around TRAPPIST seemed to offer even more favorable conditions than LP 890-9c.
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