A team of astronomers led by the University of Montreal have used observations from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to detect a new exoplanet that could potentially support life. The exoplanet, named TOI-1452 b, is described as potentially rocky like Earth, but larger. It has been observed orbiting a red dwarf star about 100 light years away from our planet. This is fairly close, according to some scientists.
Because it is so close to the red dwarf, a year on TOI-1452 b takes just 11 days. It does get a similar amount of light from its smaller, cooler star as Venus does from the sun. Despite this close orbit, it *is* located in the habitable zone, meaning it could have highly-coveted liquid water on its surface.
We don’t know exactly what TOI-1452 b will look like, but NASA has several theories. It could be an enormous rock with little or no atmosphere— or even a rocky planet with an atmosphere made up of hydrogen or helium. But the most exciting theory, given that the planet is roughly 70% larger than Earth and about five times as massive, it could house a very deep ocean.
“TOI-1452 b is one of the best candidates for an ocean planet that we have found to date,” said study lead Charles Cadieux. “Its radius and mass suggest a much lower density than what one would expect for a planet that is basically made up of metal and rock, like Earth.” If the team’s simulations are accurate, the planet could be comparable to watery moons in our solar system, like Jupiter’s Ganymede and Callisto, which scientists believe hide deep oceans under their surfaces.
Unfortunately we won’t know more until the James Webb Telescope is available to take a closer look. “Our observations with the Webb Telescope will be essential to better understanding TOI-1452 b,” researcher René Doyon, who also works with one of the four science instruments of the James Webb Space Telescope, said. “As soon as we can, we will book time on the Webb to observe this strange and wonderful world.”