NASA's Exciting Discovery: An Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone

NASA’s Exciting Discovery: An Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone

/ 09:25 AM February 03, 2023

The most recent finding of an Earth-sized planet resulted from NASA’s ongoing search for habitable zones outside our solar system.

Since it was found in the TOI 700 planetary system, NASA has given this new planet the name TOI 700 e. This recently discovered planet is roughly 101.9 lightyears away from Earth.


NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) provided data that made it feasible to find the TOI 700 e.

It has been determined that this planet orbits within the star’s habitable zone, suggesting there may be water on its surface.

The Search for Habitable Planets

As part of NASAs goal to explore the galaxy and look for signs of life on other planets, it is constantly searching for habitable planets.

To achieve this goal, NASA conducts this search using several methods, like the Kepler Space Telescope for space-based observatories and the Hubble Space Telescope for ground-based observatories. 

NASAs’ continuous efforts to discover habitable planets are because of the need to find a potential new home for humanity, and this is important for the following reasons:


  • Sustainability: Recently, planet Earth has been facing a lot of environmental hazards, and finding a new home could be a great way to sustain our species.
  • Space research: finding a new home would allow us to expand our understanding of the universe and aid in the evolution of our technology.
  • Backup plan: Earth experiences any catastrophic event caused by man or nature. A backup plan (new home) could ensure our survival.

Characteristics of TOI 700 e

The TOI 700 e is a terrestrial exoplanet circling an M-type star. With a mass of 0.818 piles of Earth, 27.8 days is what it takes to complete one orbit of its star. Some other characteristics of this new planet are:

  • Its distance from Earth is approximately 101.9 lightyears.
  • The radius is 1.69 times that of Earth and an orbital radius of 0.134 AU
  • It has a temperature of approximate 600k

This new world is likely rocky and is about 95 percent the size of Earth. Astronomers had previously discovered three other planets in the system, nicknamed TOI b, TOI c, and TOI d. TOI d is the first planet discovered and confirmed to orbit in the habitable zone. Hence, TOI e the second planet in the system to do the same.

Emily Gilbert, a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, was the lead scientist in this project.

She said, “This is one of only a few systems with multiple, small, habitable-zone planets that we know of, making the TOI 700 system an exciting prospect for additional follow-up. Planet e is about 10% smaller than planet d, so the system also shows how additional TESS observations help us find smaller and smaller worlds.”

It is believed that TOI 700 e tidally locked. It implies that one side of the planet normally faces the star, thus constantly receiving light while the other remains in the dark.

With one side of the earth exposed to steady light, it might initially be easy for complex life to thrive. So what are the chances of life in TOI 700 e?

The Possibility of Life on TOI 700 e

The fact that TOI 700 e orbits its star’s habitable zone means it could have conditions best suited for water and life. However, the discovery of life on any exoplanets is still based on a hypothesis. 

Thus further research and observations are necessary to ascertain if it has an environment and other factors suitable for life. Some of the factors contributing to the habitability of a planet are:

  • Distance from its star: The planet has to be at a distance from its star that permits temperatures that sustain liquid water, which is a necessity for life in general.
  • Atmosphere: A planet’s atmosphere must be able to preserve heat and protect the surface from star and space radiation. 
  • Size and mass: the size and mass of a planet affect its gravity and ability to sustain an atmosphere.
  • Magnetic field: solar and cosmic radiation can harm the planet’s atmosphere but can be shielded with a strong magnetic field.

Take note that all the above factors do not guarantee life’s existence.

The Challenges of Studying TOI 700 e

As with every discovery or research, there are always specific challenges and limitations. Technology is one major area that has faced restrictions in studying exoplanets, like sensitivity, characterization, confirmation, and cost.

Despite these limitations, technological advancements and new techniques for observing exoplanets are still under development. It will further make it possible to study exoplanets more efficiently. 

The Future of TOI 700 e Research

The future of TOI 700 e will require further studies to ascertain its climate, atmospheric composition, and potential habitability. This is possible by using transit spectroscopy and direct imaging methods.

In addition, as technology evolves. It will create an avenue for researchers to obtain more detailed information about TOI 700 e and other exoplanets. 

TOI 700 e is the most recent planet that NASA discovered by using TESS. This exoplanet orbits around a red dwarf star that is about 100 lightyears away from Earth.

The discovery of this planet is quite exciting as it is located in its star’s habitable zone. It could have liquid water and a temperate climate to support life. This discovery is very significant to the goal of NASA in finding life beyond our solar system.

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