Astronomers have recently discovered an exoplanet that may be the first planet covered in water.
TOI-1452 b is an exoplanet slightly larger and more massive than Earth about 100 light-years from our home in the constellation of Draco. in paper Posted Wednesday in Astronomical Journalresearchers from the University of Montreal determined that the planet’s mass suggests that it is largely made up of something less dense than rock, but more dense than gas – a possible sign of a global ocean.
“TOI-1452 b is one of the best candidates for the ocean planet we have discovered so far,” PhD student in astrophysics at the University of Montreal Charles Kedio He said in a statement. “Its radius and mass indicate a much lower density than one might expect for a planet composed primarily of metal and rock, such as Earth.”
TOI-1452 b was first brought to the attention of astronomers by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or Tess spacecraft, which studies distant stars for dips of light indicative of an exoplanet passing in front of it, the transiting star. Tess’ data indicated the presence of an exoplanet, but the observation was not definitive.
The orbit of the star TOI-1452 b is part of a binary star system, and Tess does not have the ability to resolve individual stars in this system. However, the university’s Observatory of Mont-Magantic (OMM), along with new analytical methods, was able to confirm the existence of TOI-1452 b.
“OMM has played an important role in confirming the nature of this signal and estimating the radius of the planet,” Cadio 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 two largest stars in that binary system.”
Then an instrument installed on the telescope of Canada, France and Hawaii in Hawaii measured the mass of the planet.
Unlike Earth, a mostly rocky and mineral planet with water covering about 70% of its surface, TOI-1452 b appears to be made largely, but not entirely, of water, with about 30% of its mass coming from liquid. This is a type of deep global ocean that is closer to the deep waters thought to lie under the icy crust of Saturn’s moon Enceladus than the Earth’s oceans; Water makes up less than 1% of the mass of our planet.
Exoplanets are located outside our solar system.
It’s still uncertain that TOI-1452 b is an ocean world, and what that might mean for the chances of discovering alien life in its waters, but researchers note that the James Webb Space Telescope will soon be able to help crack the mystery of this strange new watery world.
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