Dr. Jason Rowe, Canada Research Chair in Exoplanet Astrophysics at Bishop’s University, as well as Bishop’s Physics and Astronomy Department’s Visiting Scholar Dr. Kelsey Hoffman and undergraduate researcher and Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA) recipient Danielle Dineen played a key role in the recent discovery of an Earth-sized planet located in the “habitable zone” of a nearby star. TOI-700d is the first habitable zone Earth-sized planet found by NASA’s planet hunting TESS mission.
“We are very proud to be part of this exciting new development in exoplanetary discovery,” said Dr. Rowe. “The catalogue of exoplanets keeps growing as we master the techniques involved in detecting and characterizing them. This is the first discovery by the TESS Mission of an Earth-sized rocky planet in a star’s habitable zone and is likely to be followed by more similar cases, all of which may eventually help us answer the fundamental question of whether there is life elsewhere in the universe.”
Dr. Rowe’s team are among the co-authors of “The First Habitable Zone Earth-sized planet from TESS. I: Validation of the TOI-700 System,” a research paper recently submitted to the Astrophysics Journal. News of the results was announced publicly by the NASA, whose Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is the foundation of the team’s research. Dr. Rowe and his collaborators performed a photodynamical analysis which helped measure the planet’s composition.
The Bishop’s team measured the orbital period and radius of the planet and placed important limits on the mass. The mass is important to determine whether the planet in question is composed of rocky material, like the Earth, instead of gas, such as Jupiter, Saturn or Neptune. Moreover, the planet’s distance from its star places it in the “habitable zone”, far enough from the star to retain water and an atmosphere, but close enough to permit the presence of liquid surface water, which is understood to be a key factor for the possibility of life evolving on a planet.
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