Aliens??

Habitable planet and more: 4 takeaways from groundbreaking space study

ESO/M. Kornmesser

NASA

In a star system 35 light years away, a rocky planet larger than Earth zips around its home star every 2.3 days.

ESO/M. Kornmesser

This planet, and the whole L 98-59 star system, keeps unveiling new surprises that could hint at extraterrestrial life as more celestial bodies come into view.

ESO

In a study published August 5 in Astronomy & Astrophysics, researchers report a few new discoveries about the L 98-59 system, which looks quite a bit like our own.

Here are 4 big takeaways from the report:

NASA via Giphy

4. The closest planet to the star is only half the mass of Venus.

L 98-59b is the smallest planet astronomers have measured with the radial velocity technique, which looks for small changes in a star's velocity to detect a planet. Small planets are notoriously tough to locate.

ESO/M. Kornmesser

ESO/M. Kornmesser

Called L 98-59b, this rocky planet is composed of similar materials to Mars or Venus. Studying it could help us learn more about how these types of bodies are formed.

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But the other bodies in the star system aren’t all rocks and heat ...

3. There could be several ocean worlds in the system

L 98-59d, the third planet from the star first identified in 2019, looks like it could have water inside.

ESO/M. Kornmesser

NASA

The research team estimates that up to 30 percent of its mass is water, making it an ocean world like Earth. By comparison, our planet is 71 percent water.

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Due to its location in the system, it might not be habitable. But another promising body is out there ...

2. A habitable planet might exist in the L 98-59 system

A fourth planet was detected for the first time, and a fifth may lie in the system’s habitable zone.

ESO

“We have hints of the presence of a terrestrial planet in the habitable zone of this system”

Olivier Demangeon, lead study author

ESO/M. Kornmesser

We don’t know much about these bodies yet, but the research team estimates that the fifth one is a similar distance from its sun as Earth is from the Sun.ESO/L. Calçada/M. Kornmesser (Acknowledgment: O. Demangeon)

1. There could be water on the surface of the furthest planet

Being an ocean world is one thing, but having surface-level oceans is another.

Yevbel via Giphy

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The research team estimates that the fifth planet is the proper distance from its star that liquid water could exist on the surface as it does on Earth.

sakchai vongsasiripat/Moment/Getty Images

Only time will tell if there’s life there, too.

Read more stories about space here.

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