Discovery of a potentially habitable super-Earth planet: This is a unique opportunity
Steph Deschamps / September 7, 2022
An international team of scientists, led by Laetitia Delrez, astrophysicist at the University of Liege (ULiège), has just announced the identification of two super-Earth type planets. One of them is potentially habitable, relays the University of Liege Wednesday morning by way of a press release.
A first planet, answering to the sweet name of LP 890-9b (or TOI-4306b), the innermost of the system had been initially identified by the space mission Tess (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) of Nasa, dedicated to the search for exoplanets in orbit around nearby stars. This planet, which is about 30% larger than the Earth, completes an orbit around its star in only 2.7 days.
ULiège researchers used their ground-based Speculoos (Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) telescopes to confirm and characterize this planet, and also probe the system in depth for other planets that might have been missed by Tess.
The observations of LP 890-9 obtained by Speculoos proved to be fruitful since they not only helped to confirm the first planet, but also allowed the detection of a second, previously unknown one, the university rejoices.
This second planet, LP 890-9c (renamed Speculoos-2c by the ULiège researchers), is similar in size to the first (about 40% larger than Earth) but has a longer orbital period of about 8.5 days. This orbital period places the planet in the so-called habitable zone around its star.
Although this planet is very close to its star, at a distance about 10 times smaller than that of Mercury around our Sun, the amount of stellar radiation it receives is still low, and could allow the presence of liquid water on the surface of the planet, provided it has a sufficient atmosphere, explains Francisco J. Pozuelos, researcher at the Astrophysical Institute of Andalusia and one of the main co-authors of the article. Pozuelos, researcher at the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia and one of the main co-authors of the article.
Researchers will now set out to unravel the mysteries of this planet.
The discovery of LP 890-9c offers a unique opportunity to better understand and constrain the conditions of habitability around the smallest and coldest stars in our solar neighborhood, concludes Laetitia Delrez who led the team of scientists.
This work has been published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.