HOUSTON, Texas – A recent discovery of a nearby “super-Earth” exoplanet, just 137 light-years away from Earth, has sparked excitement among scientists as they investigate the potential for life-sustaining conditions, as announced by NASA.
The newly found planet, named TOI-715 b, is approximately one and a half times the size of Earth and orbits within what scientists term the “habitable zone” around its parent star. This zone is defined as the region around a star where the temperature may be suitable for liquid water to exist on a planet’s surface. While other factors need to align for a planet to have a suitable atmosphere, the location of TOI-715 b within this zone has put it in a promising position, according to astronomers.
The parent star of TOI-715 b is a red dwarf, smaller and cooler than Earth’s Sun, which allows the planet to orbit closer. Consequently, a “year” for TOI-715 b is equivalent to 19 Earth days, making it easier to detect and observe, NASA explained.
This discovery was made possible by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launched in 2018, and forms part of a series of other habitable zone exoplanets that can be further studied by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.
Furthermore, the system where TOI-715 b is located may also house an additional Earth-sized planet within the habitable zone. If confirmed, this would be the smallest habitable-zone planet discovered by TESS thus far, according to NASA.