New Super-Earth Discovered – And It May Be Habitable!

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TESS Does It Again, And This Time It Could Be Even Better

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite found a lot of new planets in its mission thus far. Over 850, to be exact. This morning it was announced that an exciting Super-Earth, called GJ 357 d was discovered, and it’s got a lot of potential. It’s in its star’s habitable zone, which means it should be rocky, and if it has an atmosphere, could support liquid water, and potentially life. On top of that, it’s relatively next door, cosmically speaking.  

Concept Art for the TESS space telescope

Concept Art for the TESS space telescope

TESS’s Mission

NASA launched TESS in April of last year. The satellite telescope builds on technology and techniques first proven with the Kepler spacecraft. Its mission is to search for Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. So far around 4000 such worlds have been discovered. The discovery of worlds like GJ 357 d are evidence of the possibility of life on planets other than our own.

Read More: Missing Link Planets Discovered by NASA Satellite

New Planet in the Hydra Constellation

The star GJ 357 d orbits is in the Hydra constellation. So far scientists have observed two worlds orbiting the star using the “transit” method. The telescope looks for stars that blink, which indicates that a planetary body may be orbiting them. GJ 357 d is one of the closest worlds identified by such methods. At 31 light-years away, it’s practically in our back yard. Or at least on the same block.  By way of comparison, Alpha Centauri, the closest star to us other than the sun, is around four and a half light-years away. The next two closest stars, Proxima Centauri b, and Sirius are both under ten light-years away. On the other hand, the observable cosmos is over 14 billion light-years across. So 31 light-years is pretty damn close, relatively speaking. 

A Potential Water World

Diagram of the solar system GJ 357

Diagram of the solar system GJ 357

As you can see in the diagram above, GJ 357 d is pretty big. It’s called a Super-Earth because it’s a little over six times the size of the Earth.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the announcement of GJ 357 d’s discovery is the fact that it’s in the goldilocks zone. That means, if it’s got a rocky surface and an atmosphere, it could support water. More specifically, the planet sits on the habitable zone of its sun. It gets around the same amount of solar energy as Mars does. Some scientists theorize that Mars could have supported liquid water at one point had its atmosphere been dense enough. Researchers studying GJ 357 d are hoping that with further study they’ll find such conditions. If those conditions do exist, the ramifications could be huge for the human species.

Further study will detail a more precise picture of the Super-Earth. It could be as cold as -64 degrees Fahrenheit on the surface if there’s no atmosphere. In either case, this is an exciting discovery! 


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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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