NASA discovers new Earth-like planet just 31 light years away

The TESS spacecraft

Elisabeth Adams, an associate research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Somerville, Massachusetts, called the discovery of GJ 357 d "really exciting" - especially because the alien world is relatively close by in astronomical terms.

Most importantly, these planets are near the size of Earth and located in their solar system's habitable, or "goldilocks" zone, which can support liquid water, one of the necessary ingredients for life.

The researchers don't know if the super-Earth is rocky like our own planet, but it orbits the star every 55.7 days and has a temperature of negative 64 degrees Fahrenheit. The exoplanet is more massive than our home planet and has conditions that suggest it could potentially support life.

"TOI-270 is a true Disneyland for exoplanet science, and one of the prime systems TESS was set out to discover,"Günther continued".

"This star is quiet and very close to us, and therefore much brighter than the host stars of comparable systems".

The other two planets, TOI 270 c and TOI d, are said to be, respectively, 2.4 and 2.1 times the size of Earth.

Since the exoplanet orbits around its host star at about a fifth of the distance Earth revolves around the sun, it may have conditions similar to Earth, as per Cornell Chronicle yesterday.

Little is known about the potentially habitable planet, which takes nearly 56 days to orbit its host star at a distance roughly one-fifth of the distance between Earth and the sun.

A paper describing the findings was published on Wednesday, July 31, in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics and is available online. It's 3.4 times the mass of Earth and zips around the planet every 9.1 days, reaching a temperature of 260 degrees Fahrenheit.

"If the planet has a dense atmosphere, which will take future studies to determine, it could trap enough heat to warm the planet and allow liquid water on its surface", Diana Kossakowski, a member of the team that discovered the planet, said in a press release.

"All of the planets are expected to be tidally locked to the star, which means they only rotate once every orbit and keep the same side facing the star at all times, just as the moon does in its orbit around Earth".

"Although it can not host life, it is noteworthy as the third-nearest transiting exoplanet known to date and one of the best rocky planets we have for measuring the composition of any atmosphere it may possess". "Just knowing that liquid water can exist on the surface of this planet motivates scientists to find ways of detecting signs of life". To confirm the existence of the exoplanet dubbed GJ 357 b, astronomers used ground-based telescopes to measure the star's radial velocity.

Follow up observations from the ground led to the discovery of two more exoplanetary siblings: GJ 357 c and GJ 357 d. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

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