Intriguing nearby world sized between Earth, Venus | Science & Technology

Using observations by NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) and many other facilities, two international teams of astronomers have discovered a planet between the sizes of Earth and Venus only 40 light-years away. Multiple factors make it a candidate well-suited for further study using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

TESS stares at a large swath of the sky for about a month at a time, tracking the brightness changes of tens of thousands of stars at intervals ranging from 20 seconds to 30 minutes. Capturing transits — brief, regular dimmings of stars caused by the passage of orbiting worlds — is one of the mission’s primary goals.

“We’ve found the nearest, transiting, temperate, Earth-size world located to date,” said Masayuki Kuzuhara, a project assistant professor at the Astrobiology Center in Tokyo, who co-led one research team with Akihiko Fukui, a project assistant professor at the University of Tokyo. “Although we don’t yet know whether it possesses an atmosphere, we’ve been thinking of it as an exo-Venus, with similar size and energy received from its star as our planetary neighbor in the solar system.”

The host star, called Gliese 12, is a cool red dwarf located almost 40 light-years away in the constellation Pisces. The star is only about 27% of the Sun’s size, with about 60% of the Sun’s surface temperature. The newly discovered world, named Gliese 12 b, orbits every 12.8 days and is Earth’s size or slightly smaller — comparable to Venus. Assuming it has no atmosphere, the planet has a surface temperature estimated at around 107 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius).

Astronomers say that the diminutive sizes and masses of red dwarf stars make them ideal for finding Earth-size planets. A smaller star means greater dimming for each transit, and a lower mass means an orbiting planet can produce a greater wobble, known as “reflex motion,” of the star. These effects make smaller planets easier to detect.

The lower luminosities of red…

Source www.sciencedaily.com

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