Astronomers Think They’ve Found A New Planet

( )- In a paper published last month, researchers from the University of Montreal said they have discovered a nearby “exoplanet” that may be the first such planet covered in water.

According to the paper published in The Astronomical Journal, TOI-1452-b, an exoplanet slightly larger than Earth, is located approximately 100 light-years away in the Draco constellation.

The radius and mass of TOI-1452-b suggest a density much lower than a planet that is made up of rock and metal, leading researchers to believe this exoplanet is “one of the best candidates for an ocean planet” found so far.

The TOI-1452-b exoplanet was first spotted through NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) which studies distant stars looking for telltale dips in light that signify an exoplanet passing in front of (transiting) the star. While the TESS data suggested the exoplanet’s existence, the observation was not definitive as TESS does not possess the power to resolve the individual stars in the system.

The Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic (OMM) observatory at the University of Montreal, on the other hand, does. The OMM was able to confirm the existence of TOI-1452-b.

Using the OMM, the researchers were able to confirm the nature of the transit signal and estimate the exoplanet’s radius.

Unlike Earth, which is a predominantly rocky and metallic planet with water only covering 70 percent of its surface, TOI-1452-b appears to consist largely, but not entirely, of water, with approximately 30 percent of its mass coming from water.

By comparison, on Earth, water makes up less than one percent of the planet’s mass.

This “deep global ocean” is more like the deep waters believed to be beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s moon Enceladus than the oceans here on Earth.

What remains to be seen is if TOI-1452-b is an ocean world or what that might mean about the chances of discovering alien life in its waters. The researchers note that they will soon have help in further penetrating the mystery of this strange ocean planet with the use of the James Webb Space Telescope.