A team of international researchers lead by the University of Montreal uncovered an exoplanet that could be fully covered in water. TOI-1452b is a planet in the Draco Constellation around 100 light years away from Earth. It is larger and heavier than Earth and is located in the “habitable zone,” which implies that the temperature is just right for liquid water to exist. The team believes it could be a “ocean planet,” a planet with a thick layer of water covering it.
What makes this aquatic planet so unique?
This is not the first time an exoplanet or planets with water have been identified. Some of Jupiter’s and Saturn’s moons have substantial water layers covering them. However, the newly discovered planet is significantly wetter than Earth. TOI-1452b is around 70% larger and five times more massive than Earth. However, its low density implies that a considerable portion of its mass is composed of lighter components than those that comprise the Earth’s internal structure, such as water. It is expected to be composed of up to 30% water, but the Earth contains less than 1% water, making it an attractive choice for an ocean planet.
“TOI-1452b is one of the greatest candidates for an ocean planet that we have found to date,” said lead author Dr. Charles Cadieux in a press statement. “Its radius and mass imply a significantly lower density than one would expect for a planet composed primarily of metal and rock, such as Earth.”
TOI-1452b was discovered by the researchers using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a satellite telescope that examines the whole sky for planetary systems similar to our own. The researchers suspected that a planet larger than Earth could be found in an area of the sky where there was a minor drop in brightness. So they began digging further and uncovered TOI-1452b.
We haven’t discovered a planet capable of supporting life in the same way that Earth does… yet. However, if the notion is accurate and there is water on the surface of TOI-1452b, it might be an enticing new target in the search for alien life.
More investigation, however, is needed to determine that TOI-1452b is an ocean planet, according to the astronomers. It could also be a bare-rock planet with little or no atmosphere, or a rocky planet with a hydrogen and helium atmosphere.
A mission for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope
It’s unclear at the moment, but researchers intend to do additional observations with the James Webb Space Telescope. The planet is close enough to Earth to study its atmosphere, and it is in a sky region that the telescope can observe all year. Furthermore, observation could aid researchers in better understanding the nature and properties of this fascinating planet.
“Our Webb Telescope observations will be critical to better understanding TOI-1452 b,” said René Doyon, Director of the University of Montréal’s iREx and team member. “We’ll book time on Webb as soon as we can to observe this unusual and fascinating world.”