Astronomers discover “Ocean Planet”

Artistic rendition of the exoplanet TOI-1452 b - Copyright Benoit Gougeon, Université de Montréal

Astronomers have discovered a real-life “ocean planet”: a planet completely covered by the ocean with 30% of its mass made up of water and five times the size of Earth, according to a Euronews report.

Orbiting a star about 100 light-years from Earth, the planet is in the so-called “Goldilocks zone” or “habitable zone,” where its temperature would be just right for liquid water to exist on the surface.

Like Earth, it would retain its liquid water, as its distance from its star means it’s neither too hot nor too cold.

Called TOI-1452 b, the planet is slightly larger in size and mass than Earth, but due to its lower density compared to Earth, scientists believe it may be covered in a thick layer of water.

Oceanic planets are of particular interest to astronomers and space enthusiasts alike, as they are thought to be strong candidates for planets where life could originate or survive.

Astronomers working on the study have called TOI-1452 b one of the best ocean planet candidates yet discovered.

It was first discovered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) space telescope, which surveys the entire sky to find exoplanets around nearby bright stars.

TESS saw a slight decrease in the brightness of a star in a binary star system every 11 days, and astronomers predicted from this data a planet 70 percent larger than Earth.

Astronomers from the Université de Montréal made follow-up observations from a ground-based telescope to confirm the type of planet and its characteristics.

“This was not a routine check,” said Charles Cadieux, a doctoral student at the University of Montreal and a member of the Exoplanet Research Institute.

“We had to make sure that the signal detected by TESS was really caused by an exoplanet orbiting TOI-1452, the larger of the two stars in that binary system.”

To calculate the mass of the planet, observations were made with an infrared spectrum telescope, the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawai’i.

With more than 50 hours of observation, they estimated the planet’s mass at nearly five times that of Earth.

“TOI-1452 b is one of the best candidates for an ocean planet that we have found to date,” said Cadieux.

“Its radius and mass suggest a much lower density than would be expected for a planet that is basically made of metal and rock, like Earth.”

TOI-1452 b is thought to be rocky like Earth, but its lower-than-expected density is thought to be due to a much larger amount of water than we have on Earth.

While 70 percent of planet Earth’s surface is covered in water, water actually makes up less than 1 percent of our planet’s mass.

The astronomers’ analysis found that up to 30 percent of TOI-1452 b’s mass may be made up of water.

This is a similar ratio to some of the moons found in our Solar System, such as Jupiter’s Ganymede and Callisto, and Saturn’s Titan and Enceladus.

Publishing their findings in The Astronomical Journal, the team is already planning follow-up studies with the most powerful telescope in history.

The recently launched James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is in high demand, and the team behind the TOI-1452 b discovery is already planning to book some time to study its exoplanet.

It’s close enough to Earth to allow astronomers to study its atmosphere, and it’s also in a region of the sky that JWST can observe year-round.

Source: Euronews

Source Euronews
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