A newfound planet was unexpectedly discovered by the European Space Agency’s exoplanet-hunting CHEOPS satellite and it is quite unique with “no known equivalent”. This newfound planet was found when it “photobombed” its star which is located 50 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Lupus.
This was the first time that an exoplanet with an orbital period of more than a hundred days has been witnessed transiting a star that is so bright it can be seen with the naked eye. But what’s even more astonishing is that the newly discovered planet has a mass that is 8.8 times greater than Earth’s and contains more water than our planet. Unfortunately, experts have stated that it is not habitable.
This discovery came as a huge surprise when researchers were studying the two other planets that are part of the star system. This new information means that the sun-like star called Nu2 Lupi is actually orbited by three planets (they are referred to as “b”, “c”, and the newly detected “d”). All three of these planets have masses that measure between those of Earth and Neptune. Another interesting fact is that Nu2 Lupi is one of just three stars bright enough to be seen with the naked eye that have more than one transiting exoplanet.
Planets “b”, “c” and “d” have orbits that last 11.6, 27.6 and 107.6 days, respectively. To put this into better perspective, planet d’s orbit would be between where Mercury and Venus orbit our sun, while planets b and c would be located inside of Mercury’s orbit.
While planet b is mostly a rocky planet, the c and d worlds have much more water than what we have here on Earth. However, it isn’t liquid water but high-pressure ice or high-temperature steam that is on those two planets.
While the European Space Agency has stated that none of those worlds are habitable, planet d is a very interesting and significant place to study as explained by David Ehrenreich from the University of Geneva in Switzerland, “Combined with its bright parent star, long orbital period, and suitability for follow-up characterization, this makes planet d hugely exciting – it is an exceptional object with no known equivalent, and sure to be a golden target for future study.”
Further analysis of the Nu2 Lupi system may reveal moons, possible rings, or even extra planets, but much more research needs to be conducted in order to know for sure. An artist’s impression of the system can be seen here.
The research was published in the journal Nature Astronomy where it can be read in full.