Scientists behind the discovery of a new exoplanet have said it could have some interesting similarities to Earth, including the presence of water clouds.
The planet, named TOI-1231b, is located 90 light years away from Earth. And while it’s around three times larger and eight times closer to its host star than we are to the sun, NASA has said that its atmospheric suggests conditions may bear some resemblance to those on our home planet.
Most notably, TOI-1231b has a similar temperature to Earth, at around 57 degrees Celsius, making it one of the coolest small exoplanets discovered by NASA so far. CNN reports that scientists think studying the planet could help them understand how common it is for Earth-like atmospheres to form, and could also reveal clues as to the likelihood of similar planets capable of creating water clouds being able to host life.
Diana Dragomir, an assistant professor in the University of New Mexico’s department of physics and astronomy and co-author of a new study into the planet, said:
Even though TOI 1231 b is eight times closer to its star than the Earth is to the Sun, its temperature is similar to that of Earth, thanks to its cooler and less bright host star.
However, the planet itself is actually larger than earth and a little bit smaller than Neptune – we could call it a sub-Neptune.
Scientists are especially excited by the possibility of being able to analyse TOI-1231b’s atmosphere, as the majority of similar planets are inaccessible and clouded by interstellar gas. However, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory believe they may be able to find evidence of hydrogen and helium atoms escaping this newly-discovered planet, which they say are typically ‘almost impossible to detect’.
The unique characteristics of TOI-1231b are just the latest evidence showing just how unique each solar system is. ‘One of the most intriguing results of the last two decades of exoplanet science is that, thus far, none of the new planetary systems we’ve discovered look anything like our own solar system,’ NASA JPL Jennifer Burt explained in a statement, per The Independent.
‘They’re full of planets between the size of Earth and Neptune on orbits much shorter than Mercury’s, so we don’t have any local examples to compare them to. This new planet we’ve discovered is still weird – but it’s one step closer to being somewhat like our neighbourhood planets.’