Friday, May 31, 2024

Researchers discover a rare ‘ocean planet’

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Jillian Castillo
Jillian Castillo
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A research team led by Montrealer has just discovered a planet that could harbor life and has the very rare distinction of being completely covered by an ocean.

Named TOI-1452b, this planet is 70% larger than Earth and located 100 million light-years away. It’s close enough to its star to find liquid water there.

“There is so much water that no continent comes out, it would be a huge ocean,” Charles Cadio explains.

A doctoral student in the University of Montreal’s Department of Physics is part of an international team of researchers based in Montreal who study planets outside our solar system capable of hosting life.

He is the first author of an article revealing the discovery in the latest issue of the scientific journal Astronomical Journal.

from life ?

Could there be life on this planet? “It’s too early to answer this question, but we know that liquid water is essential for the evolution of life,” said René Doyon, director of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets at the University of Montreal and Charles Cudioe’s thesis director. It is among the 57 sites on the article.

He adds that the first life forms on Earth, bacteria, appeared in the oceans as layers of super-hot water seeped from the depths.

“We sometimes present the Earth as a planet filled with water. In fact, water only occupies a thin layer of the surface. There, we are talking about a very deep ocean,” continues Mr. Cadio.

For two years, the doctoral student has been targeting this planet identified by a NASA satellite in the constellation Dragon in February 2020.

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First he was able to document the object thanks to two clear nights at the Mont Megantic Observatory, and then during fifty hours of observation at the Canada, France and Hawaii telescope at Mona Key, Hawaii.

Coming soon James Webb

The existence of liquid water elsewhere than on Earth is not the first of its kind. It is known that the moons of Jupiter and Saturn possess them.

But outside the solar system, “we can only count planets of this type on the fingers of one hand,” explains René Doyon.

He says he is impatient to learn more thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope whose next observation schedule will be set next January.

An unusual discovery

  • The planet has been dubbed “TOI-1452 b” because it orbits the second double star called TOI-1452.
  • It is located close to its star from Earth to the Sun, close to Venus. That is why it is hotter than the earth.
  • Water accounts for less than 1% of the Earth’s mass. It will account for 30% of that from TOI-1452b.
  • Quebec, which includes eight researchers on the international team, has played an important role in the discovery since the first observation was made at the Mont Megantic Observatory.

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