Astronomers have discovered one of the closest known multiplanetary systems in the vicinity of our galaxy. NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite discovered the system approximately 10 parsecs or 33 light-years away from Earth (TESS). Michelle Kunimoto, a postdoc at MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and one of the lead scientists on the discovery, discovered the system in October 2021 while analyzing data from TESS.
One star, HD 260655, at the center of the system has been revealed to host at least two Earth-like terrestrial planets, which has added to astronomers’ intrigue.
Kunimoto observed two periodic dips in brightness emitted by HD 260655. The signals were then categorized as TESS Objects of Interest (TOIs) or possible planets using the mission’s scientific inspection path. Using file data, the time required to sort the HD 260655 has been reduced, despite the fact that this process can take several years.
Kunimoto found that the High-Resolution Echelle Spectrometer (HIRES) also observed the star HD 260655. It is an instrument used as part of the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. In addition, the same star was identified in an independent survey carried out by CARMENES, which is part of the Calar Altar Observatory in Spain.
Kunimoto and his team contacted HIRES and CARMENES and gathered their respective data. The cooperation established the presence of two planets around HD 260655.
“Because of the brightness of their star, both planets in this system are among the best targets for atmospheric research,” Kunimoto said.
Astronomers concluded that the inner planet, HD 260655b, orbits the star every 2.8 days, and the outer planet, HD 260655c, orbits the star every 5.7 days. The inner planet was found to be twice as massive as Earth, while the outer planet was three times as massive.
The team determined based on the density of the two planets that they are terrestrial or rocky like Earth. However, the planets’ high temperatures make them unlikely to be habitable. “We consider this band to be outside the habitable zone because it is too hot for liquid water to exist on the surface,” Kunimoto continued.
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