Science & Space

NASA's Another Spectacular Discovery: TESS Discovers Second Earth-Size Planet in Habitable Zone of TOI-700

The most thought-provoking question for humanity is whether we are alone in the universe or if there is someone else. What is the reason behind this bizarre curiosity of humanity? and How that curiosity grows.

The world has been witnessing some strange events that have prompted the human brain to speculate wildly about the existence of another living world where life may flourish in the same way that it is nurtured by nature on Earth.

The project known as "Project Blue Book" is well-known throughout the world. Project blue book was the project that was initiated by the United States government to hunt down the "Unidentified Flying Object"(UFO) from March 1952 until the project's termination on December 17, 1969. The appearance of UFOs became prevalent in the sky of the United States between 1945 to 1950. It started exactly after the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. According to some unreliable reports, these UFOs even tried to hack the nuclear facilities of the United States. Therefore scientists tried and are trying to find the existence of another earth-like planet in order to discover the existence of life on other planets and also trying to decode the creation of the universe as well as the creation of the earth itself along with its living organism. 

The humanities hunger for finding extraterrestrial life gives birth to the eagerness to find earth size exo-planets in another solar system, which is why NASA and other agencies are sending expensive and cutting-edge space telescopes and building ground telescopes to peer into the sky where we ordinary humans would not be unable to see anything. 

Humanities exoplanet hunting started with a first original discovery image of a disk of dust and gas around the star "Beta Pictoris", taken with the du point 2.5-meter telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile in April 1984. After that, NASA sends its first space telescope The great "Hubble Space Telescope" in April 1990 to hunt down different kinds of exo-planets along with potential earth-like planets.  

After Hubble, NASA launched several other space telescopes, including the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). This space telescope is constantly scanning and recording data from exoplanets in order to conduct research and find the missing link in other solar systems.

This time, the missing link was found in the form of a TOI-700e. The scientists have collected the data from the TESS and analyzed it to come to the conclusion that TOI-700e is an earth-size planet with potential life due to its presence in its star's habitable zone, habitable zone sometimes it is called the "Goldi Lock Zone". 

In November 2021, the existence of TOI-700e was detected by scientists and astronomers, but it took some time to reach a final conclusion about the Exo-Earth's architecture and some valuable data regarding its presence around its star. The question of whether that planet was habitable or not became moot in the minds of scientists and astronomers because scientists and astronomers had already discovered another nearly Earth-sized and habitable planet in the same solar system, TOI-700d. The discovery was made public on Jan. 10 at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle by the research team.

TOI-700e revolves around its red dwarf star TOI-700. The TOI-700 is located in "Dorado Constellation" which is 101.4 light years away and it also was discovered by TESS on 3rd January 2020. Since then, four planets have been discovered in its orbit. TOI-700e is the last one to be discovered and it is the potential second habitable planet around the much cooler, much redder, and dimmer TOI-700. 

TOI-700 is a spectral class M star whose mass is 40% of the sun's, the radius is also 40%, and the temperature is only 55% of the sun. As the star's rotation around its own axis is very low that indicates lower steller activity by the star itself. The solar system's name, TOI, comes from Transiting Exoplanetary Survey Satellite Object of Interest, where T stands for Transiting, O stands for Object, and I stands for Interest

There were three planets discovered prior to the discovery of TOI-700e. Three planets are TOI-b,c, and d. All of these four exoplanets are tidally locked to their star. TOI b&d are more likely to be rocky, TOI-c is more likely to be gaseous, and the architecture is similar to Neptune. According to astronomers and scientists, the TOI-c might have migrated inward and its mass is most likely more than b & d. However, this is a plausible assumption based on research conducted to date. 

TOI-700d lies in the habitable zone but it receives 35 times more photons than the earth, also 50 times less than TRAPPIST-1e; TRAPPIST-1e is a rocky, Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 approximately 40 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Aquarius. 

TOI-700e's character is also similar to TOI-700d. TOI-700e only takes 28 days to complete a revolution to its star. In comparison of it, TOI-700d takes only 10 days. TOI-700e is 10% smaller than its sister planet TOI-700d. 

Finally, we arrive at the question of whether the planet is truly habitable.

It is extremely difficult for astronomers and scientists to provide an exact answer to the above question. Because it is impossible for humanity to reach a distance of 101.4 light-years from Earth and do research on their own, that is why humanity relies on technology, mathematical calculations, and at least plausible assumptions based on research. 

The optimistic habitable zone is defined by scientists as the range of distances from a star where liquid surface water could exist at some point in a planet's history. However, it is nearly impossible to conclude that there is only water and nothing else, which means liquid hydrogen, oxygen, or methane. Some scientists argue as TOI-700d is tidally locked, which is why the planet is constantly bombarded by solar radiation, and that the assumption of having water is a farce due to tremendous pressure on the planet due to its close proximity to its star. As a result, humanity cannot conclude that there is life on any planet until the planet's living organism pays a visit to mother earth. But our search will continue in order to refresh our scientific knowledge and increase our chances of discovering the true home of living organisms.