Astronomers Spot 2 Interesting Alien Worlds Around Ultracool Star

Astronomers Spot 2 Interesting Alien Worlds Around Ultracool Star: An international team of astronomers has discovered two new super-Earths orbiting a distant ultracool dwarf star located 100 light-years away from Earth. The second-coolest star yet discovered with planets orbiting it is home to the newly discovered exoplanets.

The system’s inner world, LP 890-9b, is about 30% larger than Earth and quickly revolves around the dwarf star in only 2.7 Earth days. The second planet, designated LP 890-9c, orbits the sun in about 8.5 Earth days and is a little bigger—about 40% larger than Earth. This second planet is thought to be in the habitable region of its star, which is the region where temperatures are just right for liquid water to exist on the surface.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which finds exoplanets when they pass in front of their stars as seen from Earth and produce a slight decrease in light output, first recognized the inner planet as an exoplanet candidate. Telescopes from the Search for Habitable Planets Eclipsing Ultra-cool Stars (SPECULOOS) program run by the University of Birmingham in the UK later confirmed it.

To distinguish these two observers, the system is occasionally referred to as TOI-4306 or SPECULOOS 2. The second world that TESS missed was discovered after the SPECULOOS team searched the system for additional exoplanets.

Astronomers Spot 2 Interesting Alien Worlds Around Ultracool Star
Astronomers Spot 2 Interesting Alien Worlds Around Ultracool Star

Laetitia Delrez, an exoplanetary scientist at the University of Liège in Belgium and the lead author of a paper describing the discovery, said that TESS searches for exoplanets using the transit method by simultaneously monitoring the brightness of thousands of stars and looking for slight dimmings that might be brought on by planets passing in front of their stars.

To confirm that the observed candidates are planets and to improve the measurements of their sizes and orbital characteristics, a follow-up with ground-based telescopes is frequently essential. This additional research is crucial for excellent stars like LP 890-9 because a large portion of their light is detected as infrared, a wavelength TESS has a restricted sensitivity. The telescopes for the SPECULOOS project, which are situated in Chile and on the island of Tenerife just west of Morocco, do not have this vulnerability. The cameras on these telescopes are susceptible to near-infrared light.

According to Michal Gillon, an astronomer from the University of Liège and the project’s chief scientist, “SPECULOOS aims to hunt for possibly habitable terrestrial planets transiting some of the tiniest and coldest stars in the solar neighborhood.” This tactic is driven by the fact that such planets are particularly well adapted to in-depth atmospheric research and the hunt for conceivable chemical signs of life with powerful telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

The discovery of these planets around the frigid star LP 890-9 was compared by Gillon to the discovery of the exoplanets in the TRAPPIST-1 system, which is now the most astounding star known to have planets surrounding it. Three of the seven known exoplanets in the vicinity of TRAPPIST-1 are in the habitable zone, making the system a top candidate for further study.

Additionally, the fact that one of these recently discovered worlds is located in LP 890-9’s habitable zone does further research into the system almost as alluring.

Amaury Triaud, an astrophysicist at the University of Birmingham and the head of the SPECULOOS working group, said, “This allows us to watch more and find out whether the planet has an atmosphere, and if it does, to analyze its content and determine its habitability. The next step is to investigate the atmosphere of SPECULOOS-2c, maybe with JWST, which recently discovered carbon dioxide in an exoplanet’s atmosphere.

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