Aug. 24 (UPI) — A team of researchers have discovered an exoplanet about 100 light years away from Earth in the Draco constellation, and they say the world appears to be covered in a deep ocean.
The exoplanet — called TOI-1452b — is slightly larger than the Earth and is located in a “Goldilocks zone,” where temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist. Therefore, astronomers think TOI-1452b could be covered in an ocean.
The exoplanet orbits “a nearby visual-binary M dwarf” star.
University of Montreal researcher Dr. Charles Cadieux led the international team in the discovery and their research was published in the Astronomical Journal.
“TOI-1452b is one of the best candidates for an ocean planet that we have found to date,” Cadieux said according to Phys.org. “Its radius and mass suggest a much lower density than what one would expect for a planet that is basically made up of metal and rock, like Earth.”
NASA’s TESS telescope, which has been operating since 2018, alerted the scientists to the existence of the exoplanet.
Researchers said the exoplanet orbits a much smaller star that our sun and is probably rocky like the Earth, but with a much different mass, radius and density. They say more will be learned about TOI-1452b when NASA’s new James Webb Telescope begins atmospheric characterization efforts.
“[Observations] should reveal the true nature of this intriguing exoplanet lying within the radius valley, whether this is a rocky world or one with a volatile envelope,” researchers wrote in the study. “TOI-1452b is a unique system for studying exoplanets at the transition between super-Earths and mini-Neptunes.”
The researchers noted, however, that it’s also possible that TOI-1452b is not an ocean planet. They say it could also be a bare-rock planet with an iron content less than half of the Earth’s — or a terrestrial planet with a thin, low molecular weight atmosphere.