A nearby star found an ocean planet and a potentially habitable planet

A nearby star found an ocean planet and a potentially habitable planet
A nearby star found an ocean planet and a potentially habitable planet

New images of the L 98-59 system showed that one of its planets is completely covered with water, while life may appear on the other, and at the same time set a record for observing exoplanets.

Exoplanet L 98-59b in front of its star: an artist's view

Astronomers working with the VLT telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have discovered new planets around the star L 98-59. Its system turned out to be surprisingly diverse: now it contains a tiny exoplanet half the size of Venus, an ocean planet, and even a potentially habitable planet. These findings are described in an article by Olivier Demangeon and his colleagues accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The star L 98-59 is located in the constellation Flying Fish, about 35 light-years from the Sun. In 2019, using the TESS space telescope, three exoplanets were discovered in its system: small and rocky L 98-59 b, c and d, located close to their star. Moreover, L 98-59 itself is a red dwarf: it is three times smaller than the Sun and is not so bright at all. New studies of these planets were carried out using the ESPRESSO spectrograph at the VLT telescope.


The instrument was able to consider even L 98-59 b - with a mass of about half that of Venus, it became the smallest of the planets that could be observed using the method of radial velocities, based on weak fluctuations in the position of the star. In addition, the work showed that the worlds closest to the star are most likely dried out by its radiation, and there is practically no water in their atmosphere. But L 98-59 d (radius 0, 1 of the radius of Jupiter, orbital radius - 0, 05 from the Earth's orbit), on the contrary, consists of water by almost a third. This amount almost certainly means that this is an ocean planet completely covered with water.

In addition, astronomers have noticed a couple of small and previously unknown worlds in the system. The fourth planet at L 98-59 is about three times heavier than Earth and makes a complete revolution around the star in 13 our days. And the fifth - finally, its existence has yet to be confirmed - with a mass of 2.5, the Earth is farther and makes an annual turnover in 23 days. Scientists note that this potential planet is located practically in the center of its star's habitable zone - an area in which liquid water can be constantly stored, which means that the development of life is possible.

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