We have to find a planet that can harbor life, if it doesn’t already have one. Well, that’s a hope, though nothing tells us it’s possible. However, astronomers continued their path of discovery. This time two new worlds have been discovered, two super-Earths that may be rocky and mineral-rich. These planets have been found orbiting stars close to our own cosmic neighbors.
The two newly discovered exoplanets are larger than Earth but smaller than ice giants. They orbit a cool red dwarf star.
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While these worlds are unlikely to be habitable, given our current understanding of life, this star and its exoplanet are one of the closest many-world systems to Earth. The planets were discovered as they passed in front of their star (relative to our planet), a cool red dwarf called HD 260655, just 33 light-years away.
This makes it an excellent target for follow-up investigations to try to understand the makeup of exoplanets and assess their atmospheres - an effort that will help us in our search for extraterrestrial life even if the two worlds prove unwelcoming .
Both planets in this system are considered to be among the best targets for atmospheric research due to the brightness of the stars.
Could there be volatile-rich atmospheres around these planets? Are there signs of water-based or carbon-based species? These planets are excellent testbeds for these explorations.
said astronomer Michelle Couniben of MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.
There are many 'known' super-Earths in our galaxy
To date, more than 5,000 exoplanets have been identified in the Milky Way, and astrobiologists are very interested in finding terrestrial or rocky worlds such as Earth, Venus and Mars.
We have a sample that happens to be about the size of a world known to have life — ours — so finding Earth-like planets in size and composition is one of the main criteria when searching for life elsewhere in the galaxy.
However, rocky exoplanets are relatively small in size and mass, which makes them harder to spot. To date, most exoplanets we have been able to measure are giant planets. Rock worlds - and better yet, nearby rock worlds - are in high demand.
Two orbital worlds for HD 260655 - called HD 260655 b and HD 260655 c - have been discovered as they orbit between us and their starsThe faint dip in starlight due to these exoplanet transits was recorded by NASA's TESS Exoplanet Search Telescope, which is designed to detect the phenomenon.
When astronomers detected these transit dips in the TESS data, the next step was to see if the star had appeared in previous surveys -- and it did.
The High-Resolution Echelon Spectrometer on the Keck Telescope (now called the Andes) Publicly available data since 1998The star was also recorded by CARMENES, another spectrometer at the Cala Alto Observatory in Spain. This has huge implications for the science of exoplanets.
Spectral data can reveal whether the star is moving in that location.
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Between the TESS data and data from HIRES and CARMENES, the team was able to confirm that two exoplanets orbit HD 260655. Furthermore, using the two datasets, the team was able to compile a comprehensive profile of the two exoplanets.
The inner exoplanet HD 260655 b is about 1.2 times the size of Earth, twice as massive, and Orbits the star every 2.8 days. Outside, HD 260655 c, yes 1.5 times the size and 3 times the mass of Earthand the orbit is 5.7 days.
At these sizes and masses, their densities suggest that the two exoplanets are likely rocky worlds.
Unfortunately, even though the star is cooler and dimmer than the sun, the planet's proximity to HD 260655 means Earth is too hot for life as we know it. HD 260655 b has a The average temperature is 435 degrees CelsiusHD 260655 c is smoother but still hot 284 degrees Celsius.