Detection of an Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting the ultracool dwarf star SPECULOOS-3 | Science & Technology

The SPECULOOS project, led by the astronomer Michaël Gillon from the University of Liège, has just discovered a new Earth-sized exoplanet around SPECULOOS-3, an “ultracool dwarf” star as small as Jupiter, twice as cold as our Sun, and located 55 light-years from Earth. After the famous TRAPPIST-1, SPECULOOS 3 is the second planetary system discovered around this type of star.

Ultra-cool dwarf stars are the least massive stars in our Universe, similar in size to Jupiter, more than twice as cold, ten times less massive and a hundred times less luminous than our Sun. Their lifespan is over a hundred times longer than that of our star, and they will be the last stars to shine when the Universe becomes cold and dark. Although they are far more common in the Cosmos than Sun-like stars, ultra-cool dwarf stars are still poorly understood due to their low luminosity. In particular, very little is known about their planets, even though they represent a significant fraction of the planetary population of our Milky Way.

It’s against this backdrop that the SPECULOOSconsortium, led by the University of Liège, has just announced the discovery of a new Earth-sized planet orbiting a nearby ultra-cool dwarf star. The SPECULOOS-3 b exoplanet lies around 55 light-years from Earth (which is very close on a cosmic scale! Our galaxy, the Milky Way, stretches over 100,000 light-years). SPECULOOS 3 is only the second planetary system to be discovered around this type of star: “SPECULOOS-3 b is practically the same size as our planet,” explains the astronomer Michaël Gillon, first author of the article published in Nature Astronomy. A year, i.e. an orbit around the star, lasts around 17 hours. Days and nights, on the other hand, should never end. We believe that the planet rotates synchronously, so that the same side, called the day side, always faces the star, just like the Moon does for the Earth. On the other hand, the night side hand, would be locked in endless darkness.”



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