NASA has recently unveiled the discovery of a “super-Earth” exoplanet, TOI-715 b, located 137 light-years away, marking a significant step forward in the search for planets with conditions that could support life.
The newfound world, approximately one and a half times the size of Earth, orbits its star within a conservatively estimated habitable zone.
NASA defines this zone as a range of distance from a star where liquid water could potentially exist on a planet’s surface, a crucial factor for life as we know it.
The exoplanet’s orbit around a red dwarf star positions it ideally within the habitable zone, making it a prime candidate for further astronomical study. The red dwarf’s relatively tight orbit allows TOI-715 b to complete a full year in just 19 Earth days, enhancing its visibility and the frequency of observation opportunities for astronomers.
Discovered by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launched into space in 2018, TOI-715’s presence expands the catalogue of exoplanets that lie in habitable zones capable of supporting life. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is poised to conduct more detailed observations of TOI-715 b and other similar exoplanets to explore their atmospheres and conditions further.
Moreover, the potential discovery of a second, Earth-sized planet within the same system, also possibly within the habitable zone, underscores the capability of TESS to identify even smaller worlds in regions where conditions might be right for life, setting a new benchmark for the smallest habitable zone planet discovered by the mission.