An international team of scientists, led by NASA JPL and The University of New Mexico experts, has discovered a new Neptune-sized exoplanet with a 24-day orbital period. The newly-found exoplanet is orbiting an M dwarf star.
Due to the thick atmosphere of the planet, small star, and its pace of moving away from our planet, the new study provides interesting research options, as per scientists.
Exoplanet confirmed by the gravitational pull
Dubbed TOI-1231 b, the team spotted the exoplanet using photometric data from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). It was confirmed with the aid of observations made using the Planet Finder Spectrograph (PFS) on the Magellan Clay telescope at Chile’s Las Campanas Observatory.
The PFS is advanced equipment capable of identifying exoplanets by determining their gravitational pull on home stars. The stellar velocities may differ from time to time as the planets orbit their hosts, hinting at the presence of the planets and information about their orbit and mass.
“Working with a group of excellent astronomers spread across the globe, we were able to assemble the data necessary to characterize the host star and measure both the radius and mass of the planet,” said Jennifer Burt, the lead author of the paper. “Those values in turn allowed us to calculate the planet’s bulk density and hypothesize about what the planet is made out of. TOI-1231 b is pretty similar in size and density to Neptune, so we think it has a similarly large, gaseous atmosphere.”
Coolest exoplanet discovered
The newly-discovered exoplanet is the coolest tiny exoplanet discovered so far. It has a temperature of around 330 Kelvin or 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Earlier studies indicate that such planets could have clouds high in their atmospheres, making it hard to determine the kind of gases around them.
However, new studies of another cool planet called K2-18 b challenges this notion and showed evidence of water in its atmosphere, surprising many researchers.
By looking for signs of atoms like helium and hydrogen also a planet’s atmosphere can be studied. Hydrogen atoms can be hard to detect, as their presence is obscured by interstellar gas.