NASA has announced a significant discovery of a potentially habitable exoplanet, referred to as a “super-Earth,” located 137 light-years away from Earth. The space agency revealed in a press release that this newfound planet, named TOI-715 b, orbits a small, reddish star relatively close to our solar system. The planetary system might also contain a second Earth-sized planet.
TOI-715 b is approximately one and a half times the width of Earth and orbits within the “conservative” habitable zone around its parent star, raising the possibility of liquid water on its surface. Despite the need for additional factors, such as a suitable atmosphere, for the presence of surface water, the conservative habitable zone positions TOI-715 b favorably. Intriguingly, this super-Earth completes a full orbit in just 19 days.
The red dwarf star around which TOI-715 b revolves is smaller and cooler than our Sun. Red dwarfs, like this star, are known to host small, rocky planets with closer orbits due to their smaller and cooler nature. NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) was instrumental in the discovery of this new exoplanet, thanks to its shorter orbital period, enabling effective detection and study.
NASA plans to conduct further investigations using the James Webb telescope, with the outcome dependent on TOI-715 b’s specific properties. The space agency emphasized the importance of understanding the planet’s mass and determining whether it qualifies as a “water world,” which would make its atmosphere more detectable compared to denser, drier planets.