By Chad Langen | published
Scientists have been investigating planets, stars and other celestial bodies for as long as anyone can remember. They often use ground equipment, including optical telescopes and space equipment, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, to make new discoveries. As technology advances at a rapid pace, scientists are now able to study distant galaxies and phenomena such as black holes and neutron stars. More importantly, they can determine if there are other Earth-like planets. An international team of scientists, led by the University of Montreal, recently announced the discovery of an ocean planet with the possibility of life.
TOI-1452 b is a planet slightly larger than our own and orbits a red dwarf star about 100 light-years away. According to IOP Science via The Astronomical Journal, the planet is potentially rocky and receives twice as much radiation as Earth. Due to the fact that TOI-1452 b receives moderate radiation, it is a great candidate for an ocean planet.
During their study of TOI-1452 b, scientists revealed that the potential ocean planet orbits one of two small stars in a binary star system in the constellation Draco. The planet appears to be within its star’s habitable zone, meaning it’s neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist. In fact, a simulation of TOI-1452 b developed by computer modeling specialists in the team of scientists showed that water could potentially account for as much as 30% of the planet’s mass. By comparison, the Earth’s oceans make up less than 1%, even though its surface is 70% water.
The Astronomical Journal reports that TOI-1452 b completes an orbit around its star every 11 days, which is considered a year on the planet. It receives about the same amount of light from its star as Venus does from our own sun. The star that the ocean planet orbits is smaller and cooler than our sun and is estimated to have an orbit of 1,400 years.
The discovery of TOI-1452 b was made with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most complex space telescope ever built. It is capable of collecting light that has been traveling for 13.5 billion years. The Webb telescope can see directly through huge clouds of dust that block the view of most other telescopes due to the collection of infrared light. It is 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope and is powerful enough to search for water vapor in the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars. In other words, the advanced telescope can locate an ocean planet hundreds of light-years away.
The discovery of TOI-1452 b is an extraordinary achievement of scientists. “TOI-1452 b is one of the best candidates for an ocean planet we’ve found to date,” said Charles Cadieux, a Ph.D. student at the University of Montreal.
Scientists have long hoped to discover an ocean planet with Earth-like features, and while they’ve identified some planets that may contain water, confirmation is difficult given the distance. Oddly enough, although TOI-1452 b is about 100 light-years away, that’s pretty close in astronomical terms. Hopefully, as technology advances, scientists will be able to make more frequent discoveries, including the long-awaited proof that there is life beyond Earth.