A newly discovered “super-Earth” moves so fast around its host star that one year is equivalent to just 2.4 Earth days. In fact, it’s the second-shortest orbit of an exoplanet going around a red dwarf star (a planet named TOI-1685 b zips around its star in just 0.67 Earth days).
This newfound planet, which has been named GJ 740 b, is about three times the mass of our planet; has a radius of about 1.4 Earth radii, and is believed to be a rocky world. It is located approximately 36 light-years away from us. It was discovered as part of the HARPS-N red Dwarf Exoplanet Survey (HADES) where researchers analyzed about 11 years worth of data. (An artist’s impression of GJ 740 b can be seen here.)
As for its host star, GJ 740, it is actually quite small, measuring between 0.08 and 0.45 solar masses. It’s also a lot cooler than our sun with a surface temperature between 3,860 and 6,200 degrees Fahrenheit (between 2,127 and 3,427 degrees Celsius). To put this into better perspective, our sun has a temperature of about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5,538 degrees Celsius).
The researchers are hoping that powerful equipment like NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the ESA’s Characterising Exoplanets Satellite (CHEOPS) will be able to provide more information regarding GJ 740 b such as whether or not it is alone or if there are other exoplanets near it. Actually, their studies have suggested that there could be a second planet orbiting GJ 740 that’s about the same size as Saturn and completes a full orbit around the star every nine years although they need more evidence in order to know for sure.
Their study was published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics where it can be read in full.
Scientists have estimated that stars similar to GJ 740 have an average of 2.5 planets orbiting them with an orbital period of less than 200 days. They based their calculations on data collected during the Kepler mission. During its 9.6-year journey (with two missions), NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope observed 530,506 stars and discovered 2,662 exoplanets. The missions revealed that there are more planets than stars in our galaxy and that Earth-sized exoplanets are quite common – about 20 to 50 percent of the stars could possibly have at least one rocky world about the same size as Earth within their habitable zone.
We’re still waiting on one of those exoplanets to have proof of life…