A ‘weird’ Earth-like Planet planet recently discovered has piqued scientists’ interest in their search for extraterrestrial life.
Exoplanet TOI-1231 b was discovered by researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of New Mexico, orbiting an M dwarf star, also known as a red dwarf.
Scientists were able to characterize that star and determine its radius and mass, TOI-1231 b. This provided them with the information they needed to calculate density and speculate on the composition of the atmosphere.
The planet, a temperate sub-Neptune-sized body with a 24-day orbit, is eight times closer to its star than the Earth is to the sun, but its temperature is comparable to Earth’s because the red dwarf itself is less powerful.
TOI-1231b’s atmosphere is approximately 330 Kelvin or 140 degrees Fahrenheit, making it one of the coolest, small exoplanets discovered to date for atmospheric studies. There may be clouds present in the upper atmosphere, as well as evidence of water.
The discovery of this planet, which is more than three times the size of Earth and has an atmosphere of 57°C, could help scientists find clouds – possibly made of water – in its atmosphere.
That may not sound particularly interesting (after all, clouds made of water are quite common on Earth), but hydrogen atoms escaping a planet are nearly impossible to detect in space, so TOI-1231 b is a rare find. It may even aid in the discovery of other planets capable of supporting alien life.