NASA finds a near-liveable exo-planet 31 light yrs away

Image Source: NASA Goddard

No, aliens haven't been spotted yet. But the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has just stumbled upon the nearest, almost habitable exo-planet outside our solar system. Twice the size of Earth, the exo-planet is as close as 31 light years away.  

Dubbed 'GJ 357d', the new find is a 2019 discovery by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a mission designed to dive deep into outer space for exoplanets. Over a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in this mission. 

NASA announced this finding in its website, citing a paper published on July 31 in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. 

“GJ 357d is located within the outer edge of its star’s habitable zone, where it receives about the same amount of stellar energy from its star as Mars does from the Sun,” said co-author Diana Kossakowski at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany. 

She explained how the 'habitable' part was deduced: “If the planet has a dense atmosphere, which will take future studies to determine, it could trap enough heat to warm the planet and allow liquid water on its surface.”

via Gfycat

The planet, according to TESS findings, weighs at least 6.1 times Earth’s mass, and orbits the star every 55.7 days at a range about 20% of Earth’s distance from the Sun. “The planet’s size and composition are unknown, but a rocky world with this mass would range from about one to two times Earth’s size.”

The GJ 357d is one of three planets orbiting an M-type dwarf sun, just about a third of our sun. This GJ 357 system was discovered by astronomers from the Institute of Astrophysics, Canary Islands and the University of La Laguna. 

Of the three planets, GJ 357b is roughly the same size as the Earth. However, since it is too close to its sun, the temperature would be too hot to host any life. 

TESS cameras had caught the star dimming slightly every 3.9 days, in February. This indicated the presence of a transiting exoplanet (planets outside our solar system) that passed across the face of its star during every orbit and briefly dimmed the star’s light, as a NASA researcher put it.

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