Did you know that NASA has a special “planet hunter?” It’s a satellite that tries to find brand new planets that haven’t been identified yet.
And, believe it or not, it has! Recently, NASA reported that its planet hunter, called TESS, has found a planet close to Earth and about the same size. It’s the first that could sustain and allow for water, an important facet of human life. And, it’s also the first that orbits two stars.
The planet is official now that NASA has given it a name: TOI 700 D.
However, naming the planet and even declaring it a planet in the first place wasn’t easy.
In fact, NASA first misclassified it entirely, but thanks to the help of other astronomers, including one still in high school, it was discovered to actually be a legitimate planet and, even more impressively, one that’s inside the inhabitable zone of Earth.
Of course, now that the planet is official and even has a name, people are asking a question they’ve been asking for a long time: is there life there? Or could there be?
Unfortunately, the answer to those questions isn’t quite clear yet, and chances are that it won’t be for quite some time.
Astronomers report that they’re likely decades, if not more, away from being able to explore the planet thoroughly enough to answer these tough questions.
Planets in Orbit
While the above questions might be unanswered at present, some key things are known about this new planet.
One interesting feature discovered by TESS, for example, is that it has three planets in orbit, which have also been named. They are, respectively, TOI 700 b, c, and d.
Something else that scientists are clear on is that TOI 700 d does have a star. It’s a red dwarf that seems to act as a sun.
It’s also surprisingly quiet and doesn’t exhibit any flares or other activity, which leads scientists to believe that it’s an older, calmer star. What that means for the planet and its inhabitability, though, is still unclear at this point.
Comparisons to the Earth
While researchers may not know everything about this new planet, they do know a whole lot about our planet: planet Earth. Thus, they’ve been able to draw some very interesting comparisons between the two.
For one thing, this new planet is larger than Earth by about 20%! It’s hard to imagine such a large planet not having life or at least being able to sustain it. It also has a shorter orbital span than Earth, at only 37 days, and it receives only about 10% less energy from its “sun” than Earth does.
What Might All This Mean?
This information is fascinating, but what does it all mean or will it mean?
Some speculate that we might have a new planet to call home one day, which could be important due to shifting climates and other negative environmental effects being seen more frequently. Others think that, while the discover is interesting, and provides a clearer map of our solar system, nothing much will come of it.
The truth, though, is that only time will tell. But, the more research that is done, the sooner we’ll all know the truth!