A possibly habitable super-Earth may be residing in a nearby planetary system. In fact, the system already has a world that is about half the size of Venus as well as another planet that could contain an ocean.
Located just 35 light-years away from Earth is a bright red dwarf star called L 98-59 (also known as TOI-175). So far, researchers have confirmed four planets in the system and there is possibly a fifth. When astronomers found the first three exoplanets in the system two years ago, they were compared to “...looking at Venus, Earth and Mars in the solar system”.
In the latest research, a team wanted to find out the mass of the three planets by using the Echelle Spectrograph for Rocky Exoplanets and Stable Spectroscopic Observations (ESPRESSO) instrument on the ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile. More specifically, they looked at how much the star wobbled when the planets tugged at its gravitational force and they were able to calculate their masses. They were successful in studying the three known planets and even found another world (possibly two of them).
The planet closest to the star is the lightest – it has just half the mass of Venus. This planet and the one second-closest to the star are believed to have small iron cores and could even have a small amount of water in their atmospheres. The next-furthest planet seems to have a similar iron core but it appears to have much more water and gas – possibly one-third of the world’s mass could be water.
The experts found a fourth planet and possibly even a fifth, but further analysis needs to be conducted in order to gather more information on them. If the fifth planet is confirmed, this would be hugely significant as it would be located in an area where it would receive approximately the same amount of heat and light from its star as Earth gets from our sun. Furthermore, the surface temperature might even be perfect enough to hold and protect water in addition to possibly supporting life. (An image of where the exoplanets are spaced in their system compared to Venus, Earth, and Mars, as well as a video about the research can be seen here.)
The research will continue regarding this fascinating system and hopefully more information will be gathered on the potential fifth and maybe even habitable world.
The study was published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.