The celestial body has three times the mass of our planet, but surprisingly, the same density.
NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) mission has discovered a hot, rocky planet that is about 50% larger than Earth, it reports. Forbes. Classified as an exoplanet due to its location outside our solar system, the object has been named TOI-561b.
Interestingly, TOI-561b has three times the mass of our planet, but the same density. Takes only 10.5 hours to complete one orbit around its host star TOI-561, a metal-poor orange dwarf. Due to its characteristics, the exoplanet is also known as a ‘Super Earth’.
In fact, the exoplanet was discovered by the TESS mission orbiting one of the oldest stars in the Milky Way. Its name, TOI-561b, derives from TESS Object of Interest, U “TESS object of interest“(TOI) Launched in 2018, this mission scans a wide area of space and monitors nearby stars to search for exoplanets orbiting them.
The researchers then used the WM Keck DE Hawaii Observatory to determine the exoplanet’s mass, radius, and density.
The find was made public during the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, held online due to the pandemic. The study will appear in The Astronomical Journal in February 2021.
“One of the oldest rocky planets”
It is important to note that the Milky Way was formed 12 billion years ago and the Sun is only 4.5 billion years old. Meanwhile, the researchers believe that the planets of the solar system of TOI-561 have about 10 billion years.
“TOI-561b is one of the oldest rocky planets discovered so far. Its existence shows that the universe has been forming rocky planets almost since its inception 14 billion years ago,” explained Lauren Weiss, a fellow at the University of Hawaii and author of the study.
In that sense, Weiss stated that “this planet was formed at a time when most of the stars in our galaxy began to shine.”
Could it harbor life?
TOI-561b probably does not currently harbor life. The planet not only orbits its star twice every Earth day, but passes so close that it is too hot for liquid water to exist on its surface: it has an average surface temperature of more than 2,000 ° C.
According to the researchers, TOI-561b is most likely a clue that there are many more rocky worlds yet to be discovered around the oldest stars in our galaxy that could be habitable and therefore could harbor forms of very old life.
After all, it is believed that the oldest forms took at least 1 billion years to appear on Earth. Therefore, the older and more stable the planet is, the more likely it is to harbor some form of life.