A New Earth-Sized Exoplanet Discovered Orbiting a Cool Drawf Star

Earth-sized exoplanets found
In Short
  • New space research has revealed an earth-sized exoplanet called SPECULOOS-3 b that is 55 light-years away.
  • The newfound planet revolves around an ultra-cool red dwarf star that is set to last 100 billion years.
  • Another such earth-sized planet called Gliese 12b was recently discovered as well.

While humankind is having a spectacular time on Earth, the search for other habitable planets fuels space exploration. This conquest never stops surprising us, and recently, scientists have discovered an earth-sized rocky planet some 55 light years away. To put it into better perspective, light from this planet will take nearly 55 years to reach Earth. But in the cosmic scheme of things, this is rather near.

Our light and energy-giver, the Sun, will gradually perish. While that unfortunate phenomenon is still 10 billion years or so away, it’s inevitable. Meanwhile, the newfound rocky exoplanet that has been named SPECULOOS-3 b, orbits a star capable of lasting a whopping 100 billion years.

A Little More About the SPECULOOS-3 b

Such stars are called red dwarf stars and are much cooler than our own Sun. Cooler by surface temperature and their nature. This dwarf star that the SPECULOOS-3 b orbits is a rare ultra-cool one. Still, such dwarf stars end up blasting their orbiting planets with radiation. Why so?

Because, while 70% of our solar system comprises of dwarf stars, such stars usually have one planet orbiting it up close and personal. As a result, although the dwarf star is colder than our Sun, the distance leaves no room for any liquid to build up. Moreover, there’s no way for an atmosphere to be created and sustained under such extreme radiation levels.

A New Earth-Sized Exoplanet Discovered Orbiting a Cool Drawf Star
Image Courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Sadly, the SPECULOOS-3 b is one such planet and is way too near to its star which has a surface temperature of 4,760 F (2,627 C). In other words, even if we somehow manage to make it that far, we won’t be able to reside on it.

Leaving the unbearable surface temperatures out, it’s also tidally locked like our Earth’s moon. So, while one side sees complete darkness, the other side sees day throughout.

However, a lot more observation ultimately decides the status of such exoplanets and their respective stars. There’s a reason behind calling this particular planet the SPECULOOS-3 b and its star, the SPECULOOS-3. SPECULOOS stands for Search for Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars project.

Michael Gillon at the University of Liège, Belgium, leads this project, and it came into being to explore these very dwarf stars and their planets. Gillon says,

“We designed SPECULOOS specifically to explore nearby ultra-cool dwarf stars in search of rocky planets. With the SPECULOOS prototype and the crucial help of the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope, we discovered the famous TRAPPIST-1 system. That was an excellent start!”

Gillon is also the lead author of the paper that announced the existence of the exoplanet. You can take a look at the entire paper here.

As for the next steps, Steve B. Howell, one of the planet’s discoverers at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley states that we’re making great progress in the study of such exoplanets. In addition, he also talks about how the next step will be to determine if any of these exoplanets turn out to be habitable in any way.

Recently, another Earth-sized exoplanet named Gliese 12b was discovered. And these two planets are now in the spotlight for scientists and researchers to dive deeper into.

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