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Newly Discovered Super-Earth Exoplanet May Sustain Primitive Life

Geothermal heating could support 'life zones' under its surface, akin to subsurface lakes found in Antarctica," said Edward Guinan, Astrophysicist at the varsity. 

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NASA recently announced the discovery of the first known system of seven Earth-sized exoplanets around a single star. VOA

The recently discovered cold super-Earth exoplanet orbiting around the red dwarf Barnard — the second closest star system to Earth — has the potential to harbour primitive life, says a study.

Barnard b (or GJ 699 b) is a super-Earth with a minimum of 3.2 Earth masses. It orbits its red star every 233 days near the snow-line, a distance where water freezes.

Although likely cold (-170 degrees centigrade), it could still have the potential to harbour primitive life if it has a large, hot iron or nickel core and enhanced geothermal activity, said researchers from the Villanova University in the US.

“Geothermal heating could support ‘life zones’ under its surface, akin to subsurface lakes found in Antarctica,” said Edward Guinan, Astrophysicist at the varsity.

Earth
Newly discovered Super-Earth Exoplanet May Sustain Primitive Life

“We note that the surface temperature on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa is similar to Barnard b but because of tidal heating, Europa probably has liquid oceans under its icy surface,” Guinan added.

The results were announced at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomy Society (AAS) in Seattle.

Although very faint, it may be possible for Barnard b to be imaged by future very large telescopes, according to Guinan.

“Such observations will shed light on the nature of the planet’s atmosphere, surface, and potential habitability,” he said.

The most significant aspect of the discovery of Barnard’s star b is that the two nearest star systems to the Sun are now known to host planets.

Also Read- NASA Discovers Third New Planet

“This supports previous studies based on Kepler Mission data, inferring that planets can be very common throughout the galaxy, even numbering in the tens of billions,” said co-author Scott Engle from the varsity.

“Also, Barnard’s Star is about twice as old as the Sun — about nine billion years old compared to 4.6 billion years for the Sun. The universe has been producing Earth-size planets far longer than we, or even the Sun itself, have existed.” (IANS)

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NASA Discovers Third New Planet

NASA'S Planet Exploration Satellite TESS Discovers A Third New Planet

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US shutdown delays space missions but NASA not grounded: Report,

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered a third small planet outside our solar system, scientists report.

The new planet named HD 21749b, orbits a bright, nearby dwarf star about 53 light years away in the constellation Reticulum. It appears to have the longest orbital period of the three planets so far identified by TESS.

The surface of the new planet is likely around 300 degrees Fahrenheit and is relatively cool, given its proximity to its star, which is almost as bright as the sun, said the team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.

“It’s the coolest small planet that we know of around a star this bright,” said lead researcher Diana Dragomir, a post-doctoral student at the MIT.

HD 21749b journeys around its star in a relatively leisurely 36 days, compared to the two other planets — Pi Mensae b, a “super-Earth” with a 6.3-day orbit, and LHS 3844b, a rocky world that speeds around its star in just 11 hours

The planet is about three times the size of Earth, which puts it in the category of a “sub-Neptune”. Surprisingly, it is also a whopping 23 times as massive as Earth.

But it is unlikely that the planet is rocky and therefore habitable; it’s more likely made of gas, of a kind that is much more dense than the atmospheres of either Neptune or Uranus.

NASA
Representational Image, VOA

“We think this planet wouldn’t be as gaseous as Neptune or Uranus, which are mostly hydrogen and really puffy,” Dragomir said. “The planet likely has a density of water, or a thick atmosphere.”

The researchers have also detected evidence of a second planet, though not yet confirmed, in the same planetary system, with a shorter, 7.8-day orbit. If it is confirmed as a planet, it could be the first Earth-sized planet discovered by TESS.

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The scientists announced the results at the annual American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.

Launched in April 2018 for a two-year mission, TESS will survey nearly the entire sky by monitoring and piecing together overlapping slices of the night sky. (IANS)