Researchers find super-Earth in habitable zone

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The exoplanet TOI-715 b is a “super-Earth”. It may be habitable and not far from Earth.

BIRMINGHAM — Our galactic neighborhood may hold another treasure: a recently discovered “super-Earth” known as TOI-715 b may hold the key to new insights into exoplanets. What's special: TOI-715 b is far from a star that researchers have declared to be in the habitable zone.

A team of scientists led by Georgina Transfield from the University of Birmingham published their findings about TOI-715 b in January 2024 in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Confirmation of the exoplanet discovery came from an international collaboration of institutions including Gemini-South, the Los Compresses Observatory, XTRA telescopes, the SPECULOOS network and the TRAPPIST South telescope.

This illustration shows what the planet TOI-715 b, a super-Earth in the habitable zone around its star, would look like to a nearby observer. © NASA/JPL Caltech

TOI-715 b: Researchers are excited about the possibility of studying Earth-like worlds in more detail.

A “super-Earth” called TOI-715 b orbits a red dwarf star 137 light-years from Earth. TOI-715 b is about one-and-a-half times the mass of Earth and lies within the so-called “conservative” habitable zone around its red dwarf star. This zone is marked NASA Sea The optimal distance that allows liquid water to exist on a planet's surface—a key component for the existence of life as we know it.

TOI-715 b may have appeared at the right time because its parent star, a red dwarf, is smaller and cooler than our Sun. Red dwarfs are considered promising candidates for searching for habitable planets, especially small, rocky worlds.

Satellite photo of Earth in space
Planet Earth: Unique in the Universe? © Imago Images

Astronomers are now challenged to write a new chapter in our understanding of exoplanets. Modern space telescopes, especially NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, play an important role in this. Studying atmospheres may provide clues to the possibility of life, help us better understand the diversity of planets beyond our solar system, or create additional habitats for humanity. (ls)

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