NASA announcement: record 60 new “interesting” exoplanets discovered. Here’s all you need to know
Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 15 April 2022, at 12:31 pm Los Angeles time
NASA has made an important announcement about 60 exoplanets discovered by an international team of astronomers. There is also the possibility of an exomoon.
It's of great importance for us to discover exoplanets. It can help us find planets like the Earth, new worlds, or maybe even a new home for humanity.
NASA confirmed last month that it had discovered more than 5,000 exoplanets, a great milestone we needed to reach.
Now all that remains is Webb's job to study various exoplanets and tell us more about possible worlds still hidden in the distant universe. You can find out more about Webb's studies of exoplanets here.
Among the 60 recently discovered exoplanets, there are some fascinating ones.
NASA tells us more about them:
- A "sub-Saturn" - a gaseous planet a bit smaller than our own Saturn - named K2-399 b is the hottest of the newly confirmed group. It orbits its star so tightly that a "year" on this world, once around its star, takes less than a day. That pushes the planet's estimated temperature to more than 4,500 degrees Fahrenheit (2,500 Celsius). The coolest of the new planets is another sub-Saturn, K2-387 b, with an estimated temperature of 152 degrees Fahrenheit (67 Celsius).
- K2 384, a new system of five planets ranging from around the size of Earth to "mini-Neptune" sized, in some ways resembles the now-famous TRAPPIST-1 system - seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a red-dwarf star. The new planets also orbit a red dwarf, although unlike TRAPPIST-1, their estimated temperatures likely would make them too hot to be habitable. Still, like TRAPPIST-1, this system could be a prime candidate for investigation of planetary atmospheres. As planets c, d and e cross the face of their star, light shining from the star and through their atmospheres could be captured by Webb or other space telescopes to come, allowing scientists to read the "fingerprints" of atmospheric molecules.
- Planet K2-408, called a "super-Earth" because it might be a rocky world larger than our own, is of keen interest to astronomers for what it potentially doesn't have. About 1.7 times as big around as Earth, this planet orbits a star similar to our Sun save for one crucial difference: it is extremely "metal poor," or lacking in heavier elements. It is, in fact, the second most metal-poor star found to have a planet around it. So does that mean this super-Earth is less dense than similar planets around metal-rich stars? That could have implications for our understanding of formation of other planets across the galaxy. Think of the galaxy as a big pancake. Stars born farther from the middle of this "galactic plane" tend to be poorer in metals - likely because the amount of available metals increases with succeeding generations of stars, with metal-poor stars being born at an earlier time. Tracing the evolution of planets, and differences in their composition in different parts of the galaxy, could provide insight into where to look for specific types - including the most likely regions for potentially habitable worlds.