Interesting planetary system in our neighborhood

At a distance of 34 light-years, the red dwarf L98-59 belongs to the closer neighborhood of the solar system. The fact that three rocky planets orbit it was discovered two years ago by the planet hunter TESS. The three inner planets are relatively close to their parent star. It is probably too warm there for life. The innermost planet is only about half the size of our Venus and thus one of the smallest planets discovered so far. Technically, it is easier to find large and heavy planets than small and light ones, so the true distribution of planet sizes is not really known until today.

Using the European Southern Observatory’s ESO Very Large Telescope, a team of astronomers has now managed to find that three of the planets may contain water in their interiors or atmospheres. The two planets in the L 98-59 system closest to the star are likely dry but could contain small amounts of water, while the third planet could be up to 30% water, making it a water world.

In addition, the team discovered new exoplanets not previously sighted in this planetary system. A fourth planet was definitely detected. In addition, there are indications for the existence of a fifth. This one would be particularly interesting because it is just the right distance from the star for liquid water to exist on its surface. «We have evidence for the presence of an Earth-like planet in the habitable zone of this system,» explains Olivier Demangeon, a researcher at the Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço at the University of Porto in Portugal and lead author of the new paper.

This artist’s rendering shows L 98-59b, one of the planets in the L 98-59 system, 35 light-years away. The system contains four confirmed rocky planets and a potential fifth planet that is farthest from the star and still unconfirmed. (Image: ESO/M. Kornmesser)
This illustration shows a comparison between the exoplanet system L 98-59 (top) and part of the inner solar system (Mercury, Venus, and Earth), highlighting the similarities between the two. (Image: ESO/L. Calçada/M. Kornmesser (Acknowledgment: O. Demangeon))

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  • BrandonQMorris
  • Brandon Q. Morris es físico y especialista en el espacio. Lleva mucho tiempo preocupado por las cuestiones espaciales, tanto a nivel profesional como privado, y aunque quería ser astronauta, tuvo que quedarse en la Tierra por diversas razones. Le fascina especialmente el "qué pasaría si" y a través de sus libros pretende compartir historias convincentes de ciencia ficción dura que podrían suceder realmente, y que algún día podrían suceder. Morris es autor de varias novelas de ciencia ficción de gran éxito de ventas, como la serie Enceladus.

    Brandon es un orgulloso miembro de la Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America y de la Mars Society.