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The Sciences

Earth-Sized Exoplanet Found 55 Million Light-years Away From Our Planet

New details on an exoplanet just 55 million light-years away reveal how they form and their potential for life.

By Elizabeth GamilloMay 16, 2024 10:30 AM
speculoos (NASA) rocky exoplanet in orbit around a red dwarf star, which is emitting a solar flare
(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)


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Exoplanets, or planets far from our solar system, are always exciting to discover. With each one, researchers learn more about how these exoplanets form and whether they can support life and star systems across the universe.

A team of researchers from various universities just identified another exoplanet about the same size as Earth, 55 light-years away, which is very close when compared to cosmic scales.

The exoplanet, dubbed SPECULOOS-3 b, is only the second of its kind currently known and takes 17 hours to orbit around its host star, an ultracool dwarf. The exoplanet’s sun is as big as Jupiter, about twice as cold as our sun, and even much less luminous, according to a press release.

The findings, published in Nature Astronomy, also detail that the exoplanet might be tidally locked to its host star, meaning that one side of the exoplanet always faces its star.

Finding Ultracool Dwarf Stars

The Search for Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars (SPECULOOS) project found SPECULOOS-3 b. This project looks for Earth-like planets around small and dim stars using telescopes around the world.

Ultracool dwarfs are not super rare. About 70 percent of the Milky Way galaxy consists of these types of stars. But they are harder to study because of their distance and dimness.

“The discovery of SPECULOOS-3 shows our worldwide network functions well and is ready to detect yet more rocky worlds orbiting very low mass stars,” said Amaury Triaud, study co-author and an expert on exoplanets at the University of Birmingham, in a press release.

The star’s long lifespan, also leads the team to suspect that life could develop on its revolving exoplanets.

Read More: How Are Exoplanets Discovered?

Rocky Exoplanet System TRAPPIST-1

Another famous example of an ultracool red dwarf star is TRAPPIST-1. That star, being the most studied planetary system outside of our solar system, is about 40 light-years away and holds a collection of seven orbiting planets. All the planets are rocky with the potential to hold water, which means they could have the conditions for life.

The team plans to observe the exoplanet next with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). By observing with the JWST, researchers can find details like whether the planet has a potential for an atmosphere and more information on what the exoplanet’s surface consists of.

Read More: How Many Exoplanets Have Been Discovered, and How Many Are Waiting to Be Found?

Article Sources

Our writers at Discovermagazine.com use peer-reviewed studies and high-quality sources for our articles, and our editors review for scientific accuracy and editorial standards. Review the sources used below for this article:

Elizabeth Gamillo is a staff writer for Discover and Astronomy. She has written for Science magazine as their 2018 AAAS Diverse Voices in Science Journalism Intern and was a daily contributor for Smithsonian. She is a graduate student in MIT's Graduate Program in Science Writing.

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