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Potential ‘sea world’ spotted 100 light-years from Earth

Potential 'sea world' spotted 100 light-years from Earth
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The mission of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is simply surreal. Imagine going back in time a thousand years and then explaining to someone how future scientists will have a machine that recognizes alien worlds floating at distances beyond human imagination.

This is TESS.

Since 2018, this space-based instrument has found literally thousands of exoplanets. We have one in mind shaped like a rugby ballanother that shines covered by lava oceans and even a bullet that rain glass – sideways.

On Wednesday, international scientists announced that such an alien realm dutifully hunted by TESS may be covered with a blanket of lifeblood: water.

I’m not sure about you, but I get flashbacks to that scene in Interstellar where Cooper lands on a world with waves the size of skyscrapers.

This possible “ocean world,” according to the team’s study, published this month The Astronomical Journal, lives about 100 light-years from Earth and orbits within a binary star system embedded in the constellation Draco. Named TOI-1452 b, it’s thought to be about 70% larger than our planet, about five times as massive, rotating at a seven-Earth-day rhythm, and having a temperature that’s neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water is to exist on its surface.

A lava ocean covered exoplanet passing close to a host star.

A representation of the rocky exoplanet that TESS discovered in the past. It could be covered with lava oceans – and even have lava rain.

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But the kicker is that its density appears to be consistent with an incredibly deep ocean — either that, or it’s a giant rock with little to no atmosphere, or possibly an atmosphere made up of hydrogen and helium, according to NASA.

“TOI-1452 b is one of the best ocean planet candidates we’ve found to date,” said Charles Cadieux, first author of the study, a graduate student at the University of Montreal and a member of the university’s Institute for Research on Exoplanets. according to a press release on Wednesday. “Its radius and mass indicate a much lower density than one would expect for a planet composed essentially of metal and rock, like Earth.”

If this hypothesis is correct – that TOI-1452 b is apt to happen to Poseidon’s dreams – it would be similar to some places in our own solar system. Enceladus, Saturn’s bright and cold moon, is said to harbor a global subsurface saltwater ocean icy shield. and Ganymedeone of Jupiter’s luminous companions and the largest moon in our cosmic neighborhood boasts its own frozen expanse of water.

Sounds like a job for the Webb Space Telescope

Although exoplanet discoveries have been on the rise in recent years, it’s even more exciting when scientists find one today.

That’s because we now have the James Webb Space Telescope, another incredible machine sitting a million miles from Earth, decoding the mysteries of the universe – cosmic data hidden under the guise of infrared light.

“And fortunately,” the TOI-1452 b press release states, “it’s in a region of sky that the telescope can observe year-round.”

“Our observations with the Webb telescope will be essential to better understand TOI-1452 b,” says René Doyon, director of iREx at the University of Montréal, author of the latest study and member of the team behind one of the JWST’s key devices. said in the publication. “As soon as we can, we will book time on Webb to observe this weird and wonderful world.”

With JWST, Doyon and other researchers hope to take a closer look at this exoplanet’s atmosphere and test if it really is a fantastic world of liquid water. According to the team, it is one of the few known temperate-climate planets that exhibit properties that match those of an ocean planet. That’s why it’s so tempting to think about it.

The spectral data of WASP-96b.

Along with its first set of notable images, the James Webb Space Telescope captured spectral data on an exoplanet called WASP-96b. Spectral data doesn’t tell us what something looks like, but what it would be like to exist near it.

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In addition, the reason for such a cool climate at TOI-1452 b is expected to be that the star it orbits in the binary star system is much smaller than our Sun and does not scatter to far from the planet of interest. This ball of gas is at a distance from its star partner that’s about two-and-a-half times the distance between the Sun and Pluto, the study authors say.

And intriguingly, this whole situation was so complex that TESS needed some assistance to write the story of TOI-1452 b. The researchers had to resort to a few other high-tech instruments — which would also blow our hypothetical ancient audience away — such as the Observatoire du Mont-Megantic PESTO camera. This device specializes in the red portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

“The OMM played a crucial role in confirming the nature of this signal and estimating the planet’s radius,” Cadieux said. “It wasn’t a routine test. We had to make sure that the signal detected by TESS was really caused by an exoplanet orbiting TOI-1452, the largest of the two stars in this binary system.”

JWST, may this (water) world be your oyster.

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