August 5, 2020

Spanish scientists discover a supertierra that could have liquid water


A team of Spanish scientists has discovered a supertierra type exoplanet, 2.1 times the terrestrial radius, that orbits in the habitability zone of a red dwarf star and that could have liquid water on its surface, an indispensable condition for its development life as we know it.

The finding, made by researchers from the University of Oviedo and the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands, has been done with data from the Kepler space telescope, designed to discover exoplanets by the 'transit' method, that takes place when a planet passes in front of its star and absorbs part of the star's light.

In addition, the OSIRIS and HARPS-N instruments installed in the Gran Canarias Telescope (GTC) and the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (TNG), respectively, located at the Roque de los Muchachos observatory in La Palma, were also used in the study.

The finding will soon be published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the professor at the University of Oviedo and co-author of the work, Javier de Cos, explained to Efe. The exoplanet, named K2-286b, is outside the Solar System, and orbits around a red dwarf star, the most abundant in the galaxy and somewhat smaller than the Sun. The star, located in the constellation of Libra at 244 light years, has a radius of 0.62 solar radii and an effective temperature of 3650 ºC, details the study.

On the other hand, the planet has 2.1 times the terrestrial radius, an orbital period of 27.36 days and an equilibrium temperature that could be around 60ºC. "We have verified that the activity of the star is moderate compared with other stars of similar characteristics which would increase the chances of the planet being habitable," says Javier de Cos.

And it is that the planet is in the interior limit of the zone of habitability, so that, under the suitable conditions, it could maintain liquid water in its surface, indispensable requisite for the development of life as we know it.

K2-286b is of special interest not only for being located in the zone of habitability of its star, but for being among the most suitable for atmospheric characterization with the future James Webb Space Telescope, as well as for a follow-up from the ground that allows to determine its mass with precision, explains a statement from the University of Oviedo.

Efe

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