Newly discovered exoplanet could be a 'super-Earth' covered in water

Newly discovered exoplanet could be a ‘super-Earth’ covered in water

The exoplanet is larger than Earth and is believed to be at the right distance from its star for liquid water to exist on its surface.

Researchers have discovered an exoplanet that is in the perfect location to be a ‘water world’ full of deep oceans.

An international team led by the University of Montreal said the planet is orbiting a star called TOI-1452, around 100 light years away from Earth.

The exoplanet – or planet outside our solar system – is greater in size and mass than Earth and is believed to be at the right distance from its star for liquid water to exist on its surface.

Scientists have described it as a ‘super-Earth’ – an extrasolar planet that is potentially rocky like ours but with a higher mass.

‘TOI-1452 b is one of the best candidates for an ocean planet that we have found to date’
– CHARLES CADIEUX

The planet, TOI-1452 b, is predicted to be 70pc larger than Earth and roughly five times as massive. NASA said that if this planet is an ocean planet, its density suggests it could have a very deep ocean.

While Earth’s surface is 70pc water, the oceans make up less than 1pc of Earth’s mass. Computer simulations of the newly discovered exoplanet showed that water could represent up to 30pc of its mass.

It was NASA’s space telescope TESS, which surveys the sky in search of planetary systems similar to our own, that put the researchers on the trail.

The team was led by Charles Cadieux, a PhD student at the University of Montreal and a member of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets. Cadieux and his team used a special camera installed on the Mont Mégantic Observatory (OMM) to get further information on the exoplanet.

“The OMM played a crucial role in confirming the nature of this signal and estimating the planet’s radius,” Cadieux said.

“TOI-1452 b is one of the best candidates for an ocean planet that we have found to date. Its radius and mass suggest a much lower density than what one would expect for a planet that is basically made up of metal and rock, like Earth.”

The research team and NASA said the exoplanet is well positioned to be investigated further by the James Webb Space Telescope, the powerful observatory that recently revealed stunning images of Jupiter.

Being 100 light years away from us is fairly close in astronomical terms. The team said researchers can hope to study the exoplanet’s atmosphere and test the ocean planet hypothesis. It is also located in a region of the sky that the telescope can observe year round.

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