Scientists Find Second “Earth” Twice As Large As Our Own

Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Robert Hurt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The search for extraterrestrial life has been a source of fascination as long as humans have looked up at the stars. The question of whether we’re alone in the universe is constantly resurfaced as more planets are discovered that could support human life, much like our own.

An Extraterrestrial Mission

TESS, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is a mission currently in the skies to discover planets far beyond the reaches of our galaxy. It launched in 2018, and not only does it catalog exoplanets, which are worlds beyond our solar system, but it also keeps track of any objects that change in brightness.

Source: Pexels @ Jeremy Muller)

This means that asteroids and pulsating stars are also on the radar of TESS. Additionally, it keeps track of distant galaxies containing supernovae, allowing us to learn more and more from the skies as the universe continues changing around us.

Exciting Discoveries From TESS

In its travels, TESS has come upon a world that appears that it could support life. The planet is called TOI 700 e, and it is one of several planets in its system. TOI 700 e is in the habitable zone of its star, meaning that it’s within the distance where liquid water could exist.

Source: ESO/A.-M. Lagrange, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

TOI 700 d is the sister planet to the new discovery, and it is also in the habitable zone of its star. Planet e required an additional year of exploration to discover. This star zone is exciting because it’s one of the few that scientists have discovered where there are multiple planets in the habitable zone of the star.

A Unique Galaxy Structure

TOI 700 is a small, M dwarf star, which means that it’s a fraction of our own sun’s size. Red dwarf stars are unique in that their lifespan is much greater than other, larger types of stars. Scientists believe that red dwarfs make up 75% of the Milky Way galaxy’s star population.

Source: ESO/A.-M. Lagrange, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The size of TOI 700 is one of the factors that makes it unique that it has not one, but two planets in the inhabitable range. The innermost two planets, b and c, orbit the planet on a 10 and 16 day orbit, respectively. Scientists believe that they orbit in such a way that they only spin once per orbit.

Multiple Planets of Interest Around This Star

Planet d, which is the third planet from the star and the other planet in the habitable zone, has a 37 day orbit and is about 90% of our own Earth’s mass. The discovery of planet d was announced in 2020, and the first glimmers of e were discovered in 2021.

Source: David (Deddy) Dayag, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Scientists believe that planet e may also only rotate once per orbit, like planets b and c. It takes 28 days to orbit its star, and is approximately 95% of our own Earth’s size. Scientists believe that it’s likely that the planet is rocky like our own, and that it may have liquid water on it.

An Exciting Confirmation

The existence of planet e was confirmed in January of 2023, after more than a year of observation by TESS. The planet was small and dim enough that it took the satellite an additional year to confirm it. Scientists believe that, had it been a little larger, they could have confirmed e at the same time as planet d.

Source: Orbital ATK / NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Regardless of the timeline of discovery, the mere existence of planets d and e is an exciting one for NASA. Researching exoplanets informs the study and understanding of our own galaxy, and gives us greater insight to the life and death of other galaxies and stars and planets.

Not The Only Planet That Could Have Life

TOI 700 is not the only star system that TESS has discovered that could support life, either. In September of 2022, TESS discovered a “super-earth” type planet about 100 light years away that could possibly support life. Water vapor was also discovered in 2018 on a planet called K2-18b.

Source: NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll (Arizona State University), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The various discoveries of other planets and star systems that could support life is deeply exciting. Whether or not you believe in extraterrestrial life forms in the vein of Alien or E.T. The Extraterrestrial, it’s an interesting thought experiment to consider whether there could be life beyond our planet.

Research Compounds Research

TOI 700 e was confirmed at the 241st meeting of the American Astronomical Association in Seattle this year, to wide interest. A paper about the planet was also accepted by The Astrophysical Journal Letters, cementing its presence in contemporary research.

Source: ESA/Hubble, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The data that TESS is gathering is ongoing, and the discovery of these planets only fuels the interest in other structures that TESS might find. The satellite monitors large sections of the sky for 27 days at a time and is constantly moving. Each new group of data contains paradigm-shifting information, and scientists are excited to see where it heads.

Further Deep Space Exploration

As technology advances and NASA has greater opportunity to explore the skies, more information will come to light about the universe around us. It’s a mysterious world, and more information can only allow us to be better informed about our own world and what we can expect in the years to come.

Source: ESA/Hubble, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

More importantly, learning about the world around us allows us to understand more about ourselves. We are a social species, an exploratory species, one that won’t pass up the opportunity to create a better world for ourselves and any other possible life in the universe.

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James Cross

Written by James Cross

James Cross, an enigmatic writer from the historic city of Boston. James' writing delves into mysteries, true crime, and the unexplained, crafting compelling narratives that keep readers and viewers on the edge of their seats. His viral articles, blog posts, and documentary-style videos explore real-life enigmas and unsolved cases, inviting audiences to join the quest for answers. James' ability to turn real mysteries into shareable content has made him a sensation in the world of storytelling.

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