Possible ‘ocean world’ discovered 100 light-years from Earth

The work of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is nothing short of surreal. Imagine going back a thousand years and explaining to someone how future scientists would have a machine to detect alien worlds floating at distances beyond human comprehension.

That’s Tess.

The spaceborne instrument has discovered thousands of exoplanets since 2018. We saw one shaped like a football, another that appeared to be covered in a sea of ​​lava, and even a sphere that would rain – sideways.

On Wednesday, international scientists announced that one such foreign realm that Tess is dutifully hunting down may be covered in an elixir of life: water.

I’m not sure about your situation, but I’m recalling that scene in Interstellar where Cooper lands on a world with skyscraper-sized waves.

This possible “ocean world” lives about 100 light-years from Earth, orbiting within a binary star system in the constellation Draco, according to the team’s research published this month in the Astronomical Journal. Named TOI-1452 b, it is suspected to be 70% larger than our planet, about five times as massive as Earth, rotates at a rhythm of seven Earth days, and is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water exist on its surface.

An exoplanet covered in a lava ocean approaches its host star.

Descriptions of rocky exoplanets detected by TESS in the past. It could be covered in lava oceans – even lava rains.

NASA

But surprisingly, its density appears to be consistent with having an incredibly deep ocean — either that’s what it is, or it’s a massive rock with little or no atmosphere, or possibly an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium.

“TOI-1452 b is one of the best candidates for an oceanic planet we’ve discovered to date,” said study lead author Charles Cadieux, a doctoral student at Université de Montréal and member of the university’s Institute for Exoplanets, in a press release Wednesday. said in. “Its radius and mass suggest that it is much less dense than one would expect for a planet that is basically composed of metal and rock, like Earth.”

If this hypothesis is correct – TOI-1452 b fits in Poseidon’s dream – it will resemble some place in our own solar system. Saturn’s bright and cold moon Enceladus is thought to host a global subsurface saltwater ocean beneath an icy shield. Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s luminous partners and the largest moon near our universe, has its own frozen waters.

Sounds like a job for the Webb Space Telescope

While exoplanet discoveries have cropped up over the past few years, there’s an extra level of excitement when scientists discover one today.

That’s because we now have the James Webb Space Telescope, another incredible machine a million miles from Earth that can decode the secrets of the universe – cosmic data hidden in infrared guise.

“And, fortunately,” TOI-1452 b’s press release said, “it is located in an area of ​​the sky that the telescope can observe year-round.”

“Our observations with the Webb telescope are critical to better understanding TOI-1452 b,” René Doyon, director of iREx at Université de Montréal, author of the recent study, and a member of the team behind one of JWST’s major facilities, said in the release. “We will book a time on Webb as soon as possible to observe this strange and wonderful world.”

Through JWST, Doyon and other researchers hope to study the exoplanet’s atmosphere in more detail and test whether it really is a great world for liquid water. According to the team, it is one of the few known temperate planets with features consistent with oceanic planets. That’s why it’s so tempting.

Spectral data for WASP-96b.

In addition to the first extraordinary set of images, the James Webb Space Telescope captured spectral data of an exoplanet called WASP-96b. Spectral data shows us not what something looks like, but what it looks like near it.

NASA

Also, the reason TOI-1452 b is expected to have such a cold climate is that it orbits in a binary system with stars much smaller than our sun and doesn’t get lost also Stay away from planets of interest. The distance between the gas ball and its stellar partner is about two and a half times the distance between the sun and Pluto, the study authors said.

Fascinatingly, the whole situation was so complex that TESS needed some backup to write the TOI-1452 b story. The researchers would need to use some other high-tech instruments – which would also surprise our hypothetical ancient audience – such as the Observatoire du Mont-Megantic’s PESTO camera. The device specializes in the red part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

“The OMM played a crucial role in confirming the nature of this signal and estimating the planet’s radius,” Cadieu said. “This was not a routine check. We had to make sure that the signal detected by TESS was indeed caused by an exoplanet orbiting TOI-1452, the largest of the two stars in the binary system.”

May this (water) world be your oyster, JWST.

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