NASA announces 'super-Earth,' exoplanet in 'habitable zone'



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A nearby “super-Earth” exoplanet was recently discovered just 137 light-years away from Earth, prompting scientists to dig deeper into if it has the conditions to sustain life, NASA announced.

The planet, dubbed TOI-715 b, is about one and a half times as wide as Earth and orbits within a conservative “habitable zone” around its parent star, NASA confirmed in a press release last week.

NASA defines a habitable zone as the distance from the star that could give the planet the right temperature for liquid water to form on its surface. Astronomers noted other factors must line up for the planet to have a suitable atmosphere, though the planet’s placement in the zone puts it in “prime position” from its parent star.

Its parent star is a red dwarf that is smaller and cooler than Earth’s Sun, allowing the planet to “crowd closer,” and have a tighter orbit. This orbit means a “year” for the planet is equal to 19 Earth days and makes the planet more easily detectable and more frequently observed, according to the agency.

NASA said the planet was discovered by TESS, or the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, launched in 2018. TESS has discovered a series of other habitable zone exoplanets that can be more closely observed by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

The discovered system might also include a second Earth-sized planet that might also be just inside the conservative habitable zone. If this is confirmed, it would mark the smallest habitable-zone planet discovered by TESS so far, NASA noted.

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