Quebec researchers discover a possible exoplanet for the water world

Scientists believe that 30 percent of its mass is liquid water.

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An international team of researchers led by the University of Montreal has discovered what could be an exoplanet of a rare water world.

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Astrophysicist Charles Kedio, who led the team, explained that there are only a few candidates for such a planet and nothing has been confirmed.

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“We’ve already detected water elsewhere” in the form of steam or ice on some of our solar system’s moons, he noted. But aquatic worlds exist only in theory so far.

TOI-1452 b, as it is known, is located 100 light-years from Earth, in a binary star system in the constellation Draco.

Scientists believe that it is an oceanic planet because its radius is 70 percent larger than Earth, five times more massive and with a similar density. Only a few scenarios can explain these results.

Cudio said it could be that the planet is entirely rocky, but that’s unlikely.

“It would be incompatible with what we found on his star.”

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The planet could also have a thin atmosphere made up of very light gases such as hydrogen and helium. But the ocean world hypothesis is the “most likely scenario right now,” where liquid water makes up about 30 percent of its mass, compared to less than 1 percent on Earth.

Most doubts about the exoplanet can be resolved with the new James Webb Space Telescope.

“When a planet passes in front of its star, light crosses that planet’s atmosphere,” Kedio explained. “So we can detect the atmosphere or even see the trace of water in the ways in which light rays are affected.”

But he said the telescope is in high demand, and the process is very competitive.

Unlike stars, planets do not produce their own light. But in a few solar systems, the shadow sometimes crosses the face of the star, revealing a celestial body orbiting around it.

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“You’ve got to be lucky to notice that,” Cudio noted in the vastness of space. If the transit of the planet occurred while facing Earth during broad daylight, it would be impossible to observe from Earth. This is why NASA launched its Transiting Exoplanet Reconnaissance Satellite (TESS) in 2018. TESS was the first to alert the scientific community to TOI-1452 b.

The University of Montreal’s Institute for Exoplanet Research used the Montmagnetic Observatory to confirm that it is indeed a planet and to determine its size. Then the researchers visited the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, which has an instrument capable of determining its mass.

The study of the new exoplanet was published on August 12 in the Astronomical Journal. About 50 researchers co-signed the article.

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