Science

A Watery World Discovered

Artistic rendition of the exoplanet TOI-1452 b, a small planet that may be entirely covered in a deep ocean. Image credit: Benoit Gougeon, Université de Montréal

An international team of researchers led by Charles Cadieux, a Ph.D. student at the Université de Montréal and member of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx), has announced the discovery of TOI-1452 b, an exoplanet orbiting one of two small stars in a binary system located in the Draco constellation about 100 light-years from Earth.

The exoplanet is slightly greater in size and mass than Earth and is located at a distance from its star where its temperature would be neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist on its surface. The astronomers believe it could be an “ocean planet,” a planet completely covered by a thick layer of water, similar to some of Jupiter’s and Saturn’s moons.

Artistic representation of the surface of TOI-1452 b, which could be an “ocean planet”, i.e. a planet entirely covered by a thick layer of liquid water. Image credit: Benoit Gougeon, Université de Montréal

It was NASA’s space telescope TESS, which surveys the entire sky in search of planetary systems close to our own, that put the researchers on the trail of this exoplanet. Based on the TESS signal, which showed a slight decrease in brightness every 11 days, astronomers predicted a planet about 70% larger than Earth.

The exoplanet TOI-1452 b is probably rocky like Earth, but its radius, mass, and density suggest a world very different from our own. Earth is essentially a very dry planet; even though we sometimes call it the Blue Planet because about 70% of its surface is covered by ocean, water actually only makes up a negligible fraction of its mass — less than 1%.

Charles Cadieux explained:

“TOI-1452 b is one of the best candidates for an ocean planet that we have found to date.

“Its radius and mass suggest a much lower density than what one would expect for a planet that is basically made up of metal and rock, like Earth.”

The article, TOI-1452 b: SPIRou and TESS reveal a super-Earth in a temperate orbit transiting an M4 dwarf, is published in the The Astronomical Journal

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