It’s well-known that astronomers are constantly on the lookout for Earth-like planets. This hunt has led them to a new ‘super-Earth’ which orbits a small, reddish star that is 137 light-years away.
Super-Earths are a unique class of planets that are more massive than Earth yet lighter than ice giants like Neptune and Uranus. Over the last three decades, scientists have discovered an array of planets that are different from any planet found in our solar system. One of the types, super-Earths can be up to 10 times more massive than Earth, Nasa explains on its website. They can be made of gas, rock or a combination of both.
The new super-Earth, named TOI-715 b, is about one and a half times as wide as Earth, and orbits within the habitable zone around its parent star, Nasa revealed on its website. This means that the planet’s distance from the star could give it the right temperature for the presence of liquid water on its surface. The same system is also home to another planet, which is Earth-sized. The parent star is a red dwarf that is smaller and cooler than Earth’s Sun.
Notably, since red dwarfs are much dimmer than the Sun, this puts the super-Earth in the star’s “conservative” habitable zone, Nasa explained. For finding such Earth-sized planets, astronomers have been using TESS (the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite). TESS, which has been exploring exoplanets in habitable zones since its launch in 2018, found the new planet. If the second, Earth-sized planet in the system is confirmed, then it would become the smallest habitable-zone planet discovered by TESS until now, Nasa explains.
According to a Universe Today report, TOI-715b is close to its star, and because of a tight orbit, it takes only 19 days to complete one trip around the star. Similar to the other planets in habitable zones, planet TOI-175 b will be examined closely by the James Webb Space Telescope to confirm any signs of an atmosphere.
In the quest to find Earth 2.0, scientists have found several super-Earths. For instance, in July 2023, TESS discovered a super-Earth, named TOI-1680 b, which is about 50% larger than the Earth and orbits an M-dwarf star. In 2022, the Subaru Telescope in Japan discovered Ross 508b – a super-Earth with a mass of almost four times that of Earth.