An exoplanet discovered orbiting an ultra-cold star –

An exoplanet discovered orbiting an ultra-cold star –
An exoplanet discovered orbiting an ultra-cold star –

An Earth-sized planet orbiting a red dwarf, a star much cooler and much smaller than our Sun, has been discovered by an international team of astronomers that included scientists from the universities of Geneva and Bern .

This new exoplanet is named Speculoos-3 b and is located approximately 55 light years from Earth: a relatively close distance on an astronomical scale, underlines UNIGE in a press release released on Wednesday.

Artist’s impression of the exoplanet Speculoos-3 b orbiting its star. The planet is as large as Earth, while its star is slightly larger than Jupiter, but much more massive. [Université de Liège – Lionel Garcia]

Its size is the only possible comparison with our Earth; This is only the second time that scientists have found an exoplanet of this type around a red dwarf. This is a feat in itself, because the star Speculoos-3 is a thousand times less luminous than the Sun.

Speculoos-3 b goes around its star in 17 hours and is locked in relation to it by what is called tidal effects: this means that it always presents the same side to its star, like the Moon with Earth. Its very short orbit means that it is “literally bombarded with high-energy radiation”.

The exoplanet therefore does not evolve in the so-called habitable zone, allowing the presence of liquid water on its surface; this does not make it any less interesting for astronomers who study the question of life in the Universe. It is in fact more easily observed than other planets revolving around Trappist-1.

This star was discovered by the Trappist telescope in 2015. Like Speculoos-3, Trappist-1 is an ultra-cold red dwarf that has several planets orbiting around it; some are in the habitable zone, but it is very complicated to analyze them because of the lack of light in their environment.

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Target for the James Webb Telescope

Speculoos-3 b is, in relation to this criterion, a much more affordable object: “This planet is an ideal target for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)”, points out Emeline Bolmont, assistant professor in the astronomy department of the ‘UNIGE, director of the Center for Life in the Universe (CVU) and co-author of thestudy which was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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The James Webb telescope should be able to determine whether the planet Speculoos-3 was able to retain an atmosphere despite the proximity of its star: “If we find one on this highly irradiated planet, this gives good hope that there is also one on the planets of the habitable zone of Trappist-1”, notes Emeline Bolmont.

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