A planetary system with two Earth-like planets has been discovered just 33 light years from us.
This exciting solar system is one of the closest to Earth and was spotted by NASA Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in October 2021. It took scientists several months to confirm that periodic dips in the brightness of the star HD 260655 were caused by orbiting planets crossing in front of its disk. Scientists were finally able to announce the discovery at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Pasadena, Calif., on Thursday (June 16).
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The nearby solar system contains “at least” two rocky planets the size of our Earthbut none of these are likely to harbor life, scientists said in a statement (opens in a new tab). Calculations of the orbits of the planets revealed that these two worlds surround their star at too close a distance to allow the existence of liquid water on their surface.
In fact, one of these two planets, called HD 260655b, about 1.2 times larger than Earth, takes just 2.8 days to orbit its star. The other, HD 260655c, which is 1.5 times the size of Earth, needs 5.7 days to complete an orbit.
The parent star of the planets is a so-called M dwarfa small star about one-tenth the size and brightness of the Sun. Yet planetary surface temperatures reach 818 degrees Fahrenheit (437 degrees Celsius) and 548 degrees F (287 degrees C), respectively.
“We consider this range outside the habitable zone,” Michelle Kunimoto, a postdoctoral researcher in astronomy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and one of the lead scientists behind the discovery, said in the statement.
However, these two exoplanets will provide an exciting new opportunity to learn about Earth-like worlds outside our solar system.
“The two planets in this system are each considered among the best targets for atmospheric study due to their star’s brightness,” Kunimoto said. “Is there a volatile-rich atmosphere around these planets? And are there signs of water-based or carbon-based species? These planets are fantastic testbeds for these explorations. .”
Researchers continue to study the star system in hopes that it might contain even more planets, some of which, perhaps, might be a little further from the star.
“There could be more planets in the system,” Avi Shporer, MIT researcher for the TESS mission and co-author of the discovery, said in the statement. “There are many multiplanetary systems that host five or six planets, especially around small stars like this. Hopefully we’ll find more, and maybe there will be one in the area. livable.”