Earth-Sized Planet Discovered, Likely Lacking an Atmosphere

Earth-Sized Planet Discovered, Likely Lacking an Atmosphere

Circling a cold, Jupiter-sized star, the new world could offer an unobstructed view of its surface composition and history.

Astronomers from MIT, the University of Liège, and other institutions have discovered a new Earth-sized planet orbiting a small, cold star just 55 light years away. The planet, named SPECULOOS-3b, is similar to Earth in size and rocky composition, but it likely lacks an atmosphere.

In a paper published in Nature Astronomy, the researchers confirm the detection of SPECULOOS-3b using a network of telescopes as part of the SPECULOOS project. The planet orbits an ultracool dwarf star, which is smaller and colder than the sun, but radiates a significant amount of energy onto the planet’s surface due to its extremely close proximity.

SPECULOOS-3b circles its star in just 17 hours, meaning one year on this planet is shorter than one day on Earth. The intense radiation exposure has likely vaporized any atmosphere the planet once had, leaving it an airless, blistering ball of rock.

If the planet lacks an atmosphere, scientists might soon be able to determine the types of rocks on its surface and the geological processes that shaped its landscape. This would mark the first time exoplanetary geology could be studied in detail.

The study’s co-authors include MIT’s Julien de Wit, Benjamin Rackham, Artem Burdanov, and Michel Gillon of the University of Liège, along with colleagues from collaborating institutions worldwide.

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