This is the First Habitable Exoplanet Found by TESS


NASA’s TESS (the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) made quite the discovery, probably the most significant since its bold beginning back in 2018. 

The planet-hunter spotted the first habitable-zone, Earth-sized exoplanet, dubbed TOI-700d. This discovery could prove to be extremely essential for future research. But why is it so special?

Here is what you need to know.

TESS’s New Data Examined

TESS’s main goal is to find small planets around the Sun’s closest neighbors. So far, the planet-hunter has discovered 17 small planets around 11 nearby stars categorized as M dwarfs (less than 60 % of the Sun’s mass) with a temperature lower than 3900 Kelvin. The recent discovery, however, proves to be more significant.

A team of astronomers reported that one of the newly spotted planets, TOI-700d, is situated in its star’s habitable area and is Earth-sized. The possible climate is now investigated. 

The team’s findings

According to the team, the TOI-700d is one of three small planets that orbit an M dwarf star, located 102 light-years from our planet. Using TESS’s data, the astronomers concluded that the worlds are approximately Earth-sized, 1.14, 1.04, and 2.65 Earth-radii, with orbital periods of 37.42, 16.05, and 9.98 days. 

However, as great TESS’s data is, the signals were actually faint. The scientists needed to use the IRAC camera on the Spitzer Space Observatory for confirmation. This camera is now one of the most sensitive near-infrared cameras in space.

Observing TOI-700d with IRAC in October 2019 and January 2020, the scientists obtained precise data of the planets with around twice the signal-to-noise of TESS. 

The results indicate that TOI-700d might be rocky and most likely tidally locked with one part of the planet always facing the star. And if there were liquid water on the planet’s surface, there would also be water-bearing clouds in the atmosphere. 

The team still needs more time to figure everything out, but they’re certainly on the right track. 

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