Telescopes at the Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) in Chile. Astronomers used these telescopes to find the lost world NGTS-11b. This image shows star trails; the bright streak is the moon. Image via University of Warwick.
EarthSkys yearly crowd-funding campaign is in progress. In 2020, we are donating 8.5% to No Kids Hungry. Please donate to help us keep going, and help feed a kid!
The habitable zone or Goldilocks zone around a star is of great interest to astrobiologists, those scientists probing for life beyond Earth. It is the region where temperatures on a rocky world are suitable for liquid water to exist. Astronomers have been discovering many exoplanets orbiting within habitable zones. But they wonder, just what percentage of exoplanets in our Milky Way galaxy might orbit within a habitable zone? In other words, what is the potential for life in our galaxy? Now, a new method devised and announced by scientists at the University of Warwick in the U.K. has found a cooler planet that had been previously lost close to its stars habitable zone. The planet is called NGTS-11b. These scientists say their method promises to help find many more such worlds orbiting in the habitable zones of their stars.
This rediscovery was published in the peer-reviewed journal The Astrophysical Journal Letters on July 20, 2020.
NGTS-11b is about the size and mass of Saturn. It orbits its star every 35 days. It is five times closer to its star than Earth is to the sun and is 620 light-years away.
Astronomers think that that it is just one of hundreds of lost worlds that this new technique can help rediscover.
Samuel Gill at the University of Warwick, lead author of the new study, is searching for lost worlds. Image via ResearchGate.
What do scientists mean by lost worlds?
Basically, they are exoplanets discovered by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite(TESS) space telescope but detected only once. TESS finds planets by observing them transit in front of their stars, but only scans most sections of the sky for 27 days. Any planets that have orbital periods longer than 27 days would only appear once in the observations. If a second observation cannot be obtained, the planet is considered lost as it were. But the researchers at the University of Warwick were able to reobserve some of these stars, using the Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) in Chile, for up to 72 days. That way, planets with longer orbits could be detected. Thats how NGTS-11b was refound, by catching it transiting a second time. Samuel Gill, lead author of the paper, explained:
By chasing that second transit down weve found a longer period planet. Its the first of hopefully many such finds pushing to longer periods.
These discoveries are rare but important, since they allow us to find longer period planets than other astronomers are finding. Longer period planets are cooler, more like the planets in our own solar system.
NGTS-11b has a temperature of only 160 degrees Celsius (320 degrees Fahrenheit), cooler than Mercury and Venus. Although this is still too hot to support life as we know it, it is closer to the Goldilocks zone than many previously discovered planets which typically have temperatures above 1000 degrees Celsius (1800 F).
Co-author Daniel Bayliss said:
This planet is out at a thirty-five-day orbit, which is a much longer period than we usually find them. It is exciting to see the Goldilocks zone within our sights.
Artists illustration of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Some of the exoplanets found by TESS are categorized as lost when they cant be detected in a second transit of their star. Image via NASA/ Goddard Space Flight Center.
Another co-author,Pete Wheatley, added:
The original transit appeared just once in the TESS data, and it was our teams painstaking detective work that allowed us to find it again a year later with NGTS.
NGTS has twelve state-of-the-art telescopes, which means that we can monitor multiple stars for months on end, searching for lost planets. The dip in light from the transit is only 1% deep and occurs only once every 35 days, putting it out of reach of other telescopes.
The researchers expect that NGTS-11b will be just the first of hundreds of lost worlds found once again. Gill said:
There are hundreds of single transits detected by TESS that we will be monitoring using this method. This will allow us to discover cooler exoplanets of all sizes, including planets more like those in our own solar system. Some of these will be small rocky planets in the Goldilocks zone that are cool enough to host liquid water oceans and potentially extraterrestrial life.
Being able to detect multiple transits of a planet is crucial for determining its orbital period and mass, which cannot always be done by TESS alone. From the paper:
It is important to note that we have been able to determine the mass and radius of this relatively long-period exoplanet with a very modest number of radial-velocity measurements (nine with HARPS and six with FEROS). The detection of the second transit with NGTS was crucial for tightly constraining the possible orbital periods, and this serves to demonstrate the value of intense photometric monitoring in following up single-transit events. Without this second transit detection we would have required many more radial-velocity measurements in order to confirm the planet, determine its orbital period, and measure its mass (e.g., Daz et al. 2020). The strategy of large investments of photometric follow-up with instruments such as NGTS thereby allows efficient confirmation of single-transit events without adding to the considerable pressure on high-precision radial-velocity instruments. This highlights the power of high-precision ground-based photometric facilities in revealing longer-period transiting exoplanets that TESS alone cannot discover.
Many exoplanets discovered so far orbit very close to their stars, including hot Jupiters. Such objects are relatively easy to detect, but their nearness to their stars also makes them unlikely to be habitable. Finding more planets farther out from their stars, including those in their stars habitable zones, is important in the search for habitable worlds.
Telescopes like those at NGTS will help to find more habitable zone exoplanets, these scientists say.
Later, other telescopes like the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope now scheduled for launch in October 2021 will be able to analyze these planets atmospheres for possible biosignatures. By conducting research such as this, on Earth and in space, astronomers are stepping closer to finding other life in the galaxy, if it exists.
Artists concept of a gas giant planet orbiting its star. Researchers at the University of Warwick have rediscovered a planet about the size and mass of Saturn orbiting near the habitable zone of its star. Image via NASA/ JPL-Caltech.
Bottom line: Astronomers rediscover a previously lost exoplanet that is relatively cool and close to its stars habitable zone.
Source: NGTS-11 b (TOI-1847 b): A Transiting Warm Saturn Recovered from a TESS Single-transit Event
Via University of Warwick
- 'It just sounds like a thud': astronomers hear biggest cosmic event since big bang - The Guardian - September 4th, 2020
- The Sky This Week from September 4 to 11 - Astronomy Magazine - September 4th, 2020
- A nearby supernova could have caused the Devonian mass extinction - Astronomy Magazine - September 4th, 2020
- Great Basin National Park astronomy festival to be held mostly virtually this month - FOX5 Las Vegas - September 4th, 2020
- Indian astronomers discover one of the farthest galaxies in the universe - Moneycontrol - September 4th, 2020
- Breaking down the astronomical number of mail-in ballot requests in NC - CBS17.com - September 4th, 2020
- Meet The Woman Behind Ninjas Astronomical Success: Jessica Blevins - Forbes - September 4th, 2020
- Tesla To Cash in on Astronomical Stock Price With $5 Billion Capital Raise - The Drive - September 4th, 2020
- A supernova that left chaos in its wake - SYFY WIRE - September 4th, 2020
- The ghost of an angry black hole still haunts this galaxy - SYFY WIRE - September 4th, 2020
- Amazon Satellites Add to Astronomers Worries About the Night Sky - The New York Times - August 10th, 2020
- The Last Stargazers? Why You Will Never See An Astronomer Looking Through A Telescope - Forbes - August 10th, 2020
- Ceres: An ocean world in the asteroid belt - Astronomy Magazine - August 10th, 2020
- Small stars are vital to dispersing the building blocks of life - Astronomy Magazine - August 10th, 2020
- Bookmonger: 'The Last Stargazers' is a behind-the-scenes look at astronomy - Discover Our Coast - August 10th, 2020
- Explore Pollinators And Islamic Astronomy This Week With PEEC - Los Alamos Reporter - August 10th, 2020
- Astronomers May Have Identified The Biggest Impact Structure in Our Solar System - ScienceAlert - August 10th, 2020
- ASTRONOMY: When it comes to night sky, be prepared! - Mdcp.nwaonline.com - August 10th, 2020
- Astronomers Say That Planets Orbiting Black Holes Are Called "Blanets" - Futurism - August 10th, 2020
- Because the Universe isn't weird enough: Black hole planets may exist. - SYFY WIRE - August 10th, 2020
- When the supermassive black hole's away, the stars will play - SYFY WIRE - August 10th, 2020
- A Star Went Supernova in 1987. Where Is It Now? - The New York Times - August 10th, 2020
- Astronomers Part of Pasadena-Based Carnegie's Team Reveal 'Last of its Kind' Remnant of Ancient Globular Cluster - Pasadena Now - August 10th, 2020
- NASA is changing some insensitive space terminology - heres why - Linlithgow Journal and Gazette - August 10th, 2020
- VLT Measures Main-Belt Asteroid Euphrosyne and Its Moon | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - August 10th, 2020
- View On Astronomy: Perseids meteor shower an annual attraction - The Independent - August 10th, 2020
- A Globular Cluster was Completely Dismantled and Turned Into a Ring Around the Milky Way - Universe Today - August 10th, 2020
- Could JWST Discover the Largest Object in the Universe? Now. Powered by - Now. Powered by Northrop Grumman. - August 10th, 2020
- Here's How Exploding Stars Forged The Calcium in Your Teeth And Bones - ScienceAlert - August 10th, 2020
- Astronomers find the largest impact crater in the solar system - FREE NEWS - August 10th, 2020
- See the 'space butterfly' astronomers captured from thousands of light years away - CNN - August 8th, 2020
- The best place to see stars from Earth also happens to be the coldest place on the planet - Space.com - August 8th, 2020
- Astronomical First: Differences Detected Between Discs of Active and Non-Active Galaxies - SciTechDaily - August 8th, 2020
- Rivers on ancient Mars may have flowed beneath sheets of ice - Astronomy Magazine - August 8th, 2020
- Move over, SpaceX Amazon is sending its own satellites into orbit - Salon - August 8th, 2020
- Amateur Astronomers Find a Saturn-Sized Planet in The Habitable Zone of a Distant Star - ScienceAlert - August 8th, 2020
- Astronomy Apps Market Expected to Witness the Highest Growth 2025 - AlgosOnline - August 8th, 2020
- Saturn-Sized Exoplanet Discovered by the Gravitational Wobble in the Small, Cool Star It Orbits - SciTechDaily - August 8th, 2020
- 9 of the Best Books About Astronomy - Book Riot - August 8th, 2020
- Prof Melvin Hoare is Driving Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy - Space in Africa - August 8th, 2020
- Top astronomical events to look forward to in August 2020 - Wales Online - August 7th, 2020
- A Strange Planet has been Found thats Smaller than Neptune But 50% More Massive - Universe Today - August 7th, 2020
- What planets should we search to find alien life? - Astronomy Magazine - August 4th, 2020
- Mars 2020 launch: NASA's Perseverance rover ready for the Red Planet - Astronomy Magazine - August 4th, 2020
- A Movie of the Evolving Universe Is Potentially Scary - Scientific American - August 4th, 2020
- Mini-Neptunes could be super-Earths with bloated atmospheres of water - Astronomy Magazine - August 3rd, 2020
- A Movie of the Evolving Universe, Potentially Scary - Scientific American - August 3rd, 2020
- Study: Universe Might Be 1.2 Billion Years Younger | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - August 3rd, 2020
- Stargazing: Astronomers estimate Earth-size planets number in the billions - Oklahoman.com - August 3rd, 2020
- Boosting the representation of Black students - Symmetry magazine - August 3rd, 2020
- There are Natural Starshades Out There, Which Would Help Astronomers Image Exoplanets - Universe Today - August 3rd, 2020
- Antonia: A Maury to be Proud Of - Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber - August 3rd, 2020
- SpaceX: Crew Dragon is returning to Earth here's when to hold your - Astronomy Magazine - August 3rd, 2020
- Neuroscience, astronomy, animal behavior, and more: Black scientists are showcasing their research on social media - Massive Science - August 2nd, 2020
- The CO2 Elephant in the Room: Curbing the Carbon Footprint of Astronomy - Astrobites - August 2nd, 2020
- Scientists Find The Best Place on Earth For Viewing The Night Sky, But There's a Catch - ScienceAlert - August 2nd, 2020
- Mind-blowing Astronomy Photo of the Year competition reveals strange galaxies and space portals - The Sun - August 2nd, 2020
- Innovative balloon-borne telescope promises rich infrared reward - Astronomy Now Online - August 2nd, 2020
- Astronomers just spotted ancient stars lurking at the edges of our galaxy - BGR - August 2nd, 2020
- Astronomers found a bunch of ancient stars displaced by our galaxy - BGR - July 31st, 2020
- Astronomy - Wikipedia - July 31st, 2020
- astronomy | Definition & Facts | Britannica - July 31st, 2020
- Astronomy for Beginners | Night Sky Facts, FAQs ... - July 31st, 2020
- What is Astronomy? Definition & History | Space - July 31st, 2020
- Mars shifting sands revealed by long-term observations - Astronomy Magazine - July 31st, 2020
- Astronomers nab the farthest visible explosion from a neutron star collision ever seen - SYFY WIRE - July 31st, 2020
- A&M-Commerce Planetarium & Observatory Offer the Universe to Students and Community - frontporchnewstexas.com - July 31st, 2020
- This Is the Single Best Place To Stargaze on Earth - Popular Mechanics - July 30th, 2020
- Apple TV+ has Acquired the Rights to the Original Astronomy Documentary 'Fireball' - Patently Apple - July 30th, 2020
- Hitting the reset button | Lifestyles - Enid News & Eagle - July 29th, 2020
- Astronomers Discover One of the Coolest Transiting Gas Giants | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - July 29th, 2020
- A Faraway Solar System Is an Uncanny Reflection of Our Own - The Atlantic - July 29th, 2020
- Gamma-Ray Telescopes Can Measure the Diameters of Other Stars - Universe Today - July 29th, 2020
- Astronomers Capture the First Ever Photo of Two Planets Orbiting a Sun-Like Star - PetaPixel - July 29th, 2020
- Thanks to astronomy, researchers in Texas figure out the time, date, and year of Vermeer's "View of Delft" - Art Critique - July 29th, 2020
- To Mars! Perseverance rover all set to launch on Thursday 30 July - SYFY WIRE - July 29th, 2020
- Thinking Outside the Classroom: Astronomical phenomena you can see during the day - Summit Daily News - July 29th, 2020
- Astronomy news: Never before seen cosmic structures spotted in distant galaxy - Daily Express - July 26th, 2020
- Astronomers Do the Math to Figure Out Exactly When Johannes Vermeer Painted this, More than 350 Years Ago - Universe Today - July 26th, 2020
- Pinning down the suns birthplace just got more complicated - Science News - July 26th, 2020