Discovery Alert: A 17-hour Earth-sized planet has been discovered

New Delhi: In an exciting development, scientists have discovered an Earth-sized exoplanet, SPECULOOS-3 b, orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star about 55 light-years from Earth. On a cosmic scale, this distance is relatively close, highlighting the growing potential to find more planets in our interstellar neighborhood.

SPECULOOS-3 b is roughly the same size as Earth, offering intriguing possibilities for comparative planetary studies. However, its orbit around its host star differs dramatically from Earth’s annual journey around the Sun. SPECULOOS-3 b completes a full orbit in just 17 hours, suggesting it is very close to its star.

Because of this proximity, scientists believe SPECULOOS-3 is b-wave locked. This means that one side of the planet, called the day side, constantly faces the star, resulting in perpetual daylight, while the other, the night side, is shrouded in eternal darkness. This phenomenon is similar to how the Moon is tidally locked to Earth, always showing the same face to our planet.

The discovery was made by the SPECULOOS (Search for habitable Planets eclipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) project, which focuses on identifying possible habitable planets around ultra-cool dwarf stars. These stars are smaller and cooler than our Sun, making it easier to find Earth-sized planets within their habitable zones. The habitable zone is the region around a star where the conditions are perfect for liquid water, a key ingredient for life as we know it.

SPECULOOS-3 b adds to the growing list of Earth-sized exoplanets found in habitable zones, but the planet’s extreme conditions present unique challenges for habitation. Constant daylight on the one hand and permanent darkness on the other create stark temperature differences, affecting atmospheric and surface conditions.

Researchers are eager to conduct more observations to understand the planet’s atmosphere and its ability to support life. Future studies will focus on characterizing the atmospheric composition and looking for signs of life, such as the presence of water vapor or other biosignatures.

„Finding an Earth-sized planet around an ultra-cool star would be a step forward in our search for habitable worlds beyond our solar system,” said a representative of the SPECULOOS project. This discovery not only improves our understanding of planetary systems around different types of stars, but also brings us closer to answering the age-old question of whether we are alone in the universe.

As technology and methods for finding exoplanets continue to improve, the search for habitable worlds becomes more promising. SPECULOOS-3 b represents a significant milestone in this ongoing mission, providing a glimpse into the diversity of planets in our galaxy.

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