NASA Announces 'Super Earth', Exoplanet in 'Habitable Zone'

The recent discovery of a nearby “super-Earth” exoplanet 137 light-years from Earth has prompted scientists to dig deeper to see if conditions exist to sustain life, NASA announced.

NASA has confirmed that the planet, called TOI-715 b, is about one-and-a-half times the width of Earth and orbits its parent star in a conservative “habitable zone.” Press release Last week.

NASA defines a habitable zone as the distance from a star that can provide the right temperature for liquid water to form on a planet's surface. Astronomers note that other factors must line up for a planet to have a suitable atmosphere, although the planet's location in the zone puts it in “prime position” from its parent star.

Its parent star is a red dwarf, smaller and cooler than Earth's Sun, allowing the planet to “close in” and have a tighter orbit. This orbit means that one “year” of the planet is equal to 19 Earth days and makes the planet more easily detectable and more frequently observed, the agency said.

NASA said the planet was discovered by TESS, or the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, launched in 2018. TESS has discovered a series of other habitable-zone exoplanets that can be observed more closely by NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

The discovered system may also contain a second Earth-sized planet that may be within the conservative habitable zone. If confirmed, it would mark the smallest habitable-zone planet ever discovered by TESS, NASA noted.

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