NASA announces ‘super-Earth,’ exoplanet in ‘habitable zone’

A near-“super-Earth” exoplanet was recently discovered just 137 light-years from Earth, prompting scientists to dig deeper to determine whether it has the conditions necessary to sustain life, NASA announced.

The planet, nicknamed TOI-715 b, is about one and a half times wider than Earth and orbits in a conservative “habitable zone” around its parent star, NASA confirmed in a statement. Press release last week.

NASA defines a habitable zone as the distance from the star that could give the planet the ideal temperature for liquid water to form on its surface. Astronomers noted that other factors must align for the planet to have a suitable atmosphere, although the planet's placement in the zone puts it in a “privileged position” relative to its parent star.

Its parent star is a red dwarf that is smaller and cooler than Earth's Sun, allowing the planet to come “closer” and have a narrower orbit. This orbit means that a “year” for the planet is equivalent 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 Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, launched in 2018. TESS discovered a series of other habitable zone exoplanets that can be observed more closely by the NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. NASA.

The discovered system could also include a second Earth-sized planet that could also lie just inside the conservative habitable zone. If confirmed, it would be the smallest habitable planet discovered by TESS to date, NASA noted.

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