Exoplanets Galore: New Study Reveals Smorgasbord of Planetary Bodies

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Eight Planet Candidates, Five Exoplanets, Two Super-Earths, One Cold-Neptune… and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Okay, neither partridges nor pear trees have anything to do with this story. We do, however, have a lot to talk about when it comes to exoplanet discovery, thanks to a new study. The study, published in The Astrophysical Journal on Tuesday, outlines a number of planetary bodies rife for further investigation. 

Among the five exoplanets, researchers found two super-Earths and a cold-Neptune. Researchers named the two super-Earths GJ180d and GJ229Ac. They orbit two small red dwarf stars roughly 19 and 40 light-years away, respectively. The cold Neptune is right in between, and it orbits a similar red dwarf star about 29 and a half light-years away. 

Relatively Close Exoplanets

I know. It seems like a range of 19 to 40 light-years away is pretty far. And it is. But when you consider the fact that the observable universe is nearly 93 billion light-years across, this new crop of exoplanets is right next door. Their relatively close proximity means that future space telescopes will be able to study them in much greater detail than many other exoplanets. 

Both super-Earths are nearly eight times the size of our home. One’s mass outdoes Earth by about 7.5 times, and the other is 7.9 times larger. They also orbit their stars more quickly. GJ180d and GJ229Ac take 106 and 122 days to revolve around their stars respectively.  

About the Cold Neptune

It seems a bit weird, doesn’t it, calling a planet a “cold” Neptune, doesn’t it? I mean, in our neighborhood, Neptune is the farthest planet from our sun, so it’s pretty cold on its own. Temperatures on Neptune, for example, can dip as low as -353 degrees Fahrenheit. This newly discovered cold Neptune, GJ433d, on the other hand, is even colder. Per astrophysicist Fabo Feng (Carnegie Institution for Science), “GJ433d is the nearest, widest, and coldest Neptune-like planet ever detected.”

Why Search for Exoplanets?

2019 was a big year for exoplanet research. In fact, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) found a multitude of new exoplanets. Finding these planets is important because finding exoplanets within the habitable zone (or Goldilocks zone) of their respective stars increases the likelihood of finding life outside Earth. In truth, most exoplanets—even the closest ones that could potentially support life—are much too far away to be candidates for human colonization. However, the more planets we find that could potentially host life increases the likelihood that life is out there.

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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