NASA discovers 3 new planets; 1 potentially habitable ‘super Earth’

NASA discovers 3 new planets; 1 potentially habitable ‘super Earth’

Plus, it's one of the closest of the 45 exoplanets confirmed to date, a mere 31 light-years away.

Here we have small rocky planets such as Earth, Mercury, Venus and Mars, or much larger gas-dominated planets like Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, but nothing in the middle.

"If GJ 357 d were to show signs of life, it would be at the top of everyone's travel list - and we could answer a 1,000-year-old question on whether we are alone in the cosmos", Kaltenegger said. It's incredibly close to its star, completing an orbit every three-and-a-half Earth days, but because TOI 207 isn't as intense as our own Sun, the planet isn't quite as hot as you might expect.

NASA's TESS mission has discovered a super-Earth planet located 31 light years away from our own solar system. In February, TESS cameras caught the star dimming slightly every 3.9 days, revealing the presence of a transiting exoplanet - a world beyond our solar system - that passes across the face of its star during every orbit and briefly dims the star's light.

Using TESS, a US$337-million NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that was launched in April 2018, the astronomers had detected another planet orbiting the same star, known as GJ 357. The surface of exoplanet GJ 357 c, for instance, is estimated to be about 260 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Kaltenegger. But the latest discovery may be the most surprising of all - an alien planet that is potentially capable of supporting life.

'GJ 357 d is located within the outer edge of its star's habitable zone, where it receives about the same amount of stellar energy from its star as Mars does from the Sun, ' said Diana Kossakowski, from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg.

They are now hoping to discover that the planet has a dense atmosphere that can trap enough heat to warm it and allow liquid water on its surface. This is why it is being dubbed as "hot Earth" and even though it can not host life, it is significant to us as it is the third-nearest transiting exoplanet known to date! As they were working to confirm the planet that TESS spotted, they noticed gravitational pulls from two others.

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In this region, it is possible for liquid water to exist on the surface of a planet if it is rocky, although further research is needed to work out whether GJ 357 d's atmosphere is dense and warm enough to host liquid water.

Since the exoplanet orbits around its host star at about a fifth of the distance Earth revolves around the sun, it may have conditions similar to Earth, as per Cornell Chronicle yesterday.

This diagram shows the layout of the GJ 357 system.

The other planet in the system, GJ 357 c, is at least 3.4 times more massive than Earth and orbits the star every 9.1 days.

Astronomers from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands and the University of La Laguna, both in Spain, announced the discovery of the GJ 357 system in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The TESS space telescope, which was created to search for exoplanets, detected the planet in early 2019. GJ 357 d is in the habitable zone around the M-dwarf star.

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