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Monash expert: NASA discovers ‘Super-Earth’ 137 light-years away

Monash University 2 mins read

A Monash University expert is available to comment on a new 'super-Earth' which NASA has discovered that orbits in a habitable zone and is 137 light-years away.

Associate Professor Michael Brown, School of Physics and Astronomy, Faculty of Science, Monash University
Contact:  +61 3 9903 4840 or media@monash.edu
Read more of Associate Professor Brown’s commentary at Monash Lens

The following can be attributed to Associate Professor Brown:

“With improvements in telescopes and methods, more planets beyond our Solar System are being discovered, with over 5,000 now known. Some planets are even big enough that amateur astronomers and students can detect their presence around nearby stars.

“Very large gas giant planets that orbit close to their stars are relatively easy to discover. However, these ‘hot Jupiters’ are probably not suitable habitats for life. 

“There’s been great interest in finding smaller planets that are similar to the Earth in size and mass, that would have surface temperatures suitable for rivers and oceans, and thus potentially life. 

“TOI-715 b may be such a planet. It’s three times the mass of the Earth and the right distance from its star to potentially have liquid water. 

“This is exciting but there’s good reasons for caution. We know very little about the atmosphere and surface of this planet. TOI-715 b also orbits close to a cool M-type star, whereas the Earth orbits further away from a hotter G-type star - and perhaps being this close to an M-type star could complicate the development of life. 

“More planets with sizes and masses comparable to Earth will be found in the habitable zones of stars, and in the coming years and decades they will be the prime targets for searches for life beyond the Earth.”

For any other topics on which you may be seeking expert comment, please contact the Monash University Media team on +61 3 9903 4840 or media@monash.edu

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