Scientists have discovered an exoplanet located 90 light-years from Earth with an intriguing atmosphere containing water clouds. Exoplanets are planets found outside of our solar system. Every 24 Earth days, this exoplanet, called TOI-1231 b, completes a full orbit around its star. It orbits an M-Type or red dwarf star, known as NLTT 24399, dimmer and smaller than our stars like Sun. In a new study, the discovery of the planet was the detail published in a future issue of The Astronomical Journal.
According to Diana Dragomir, study co-author and an assistant professor in the University of New Mexico’s department of physics and astronomy, “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.”
The planet radius and mass the researchers were able to determine helped them calculate its density and infer its composition. The exoplanet’s density is low, which suggests that it is a gaseous planet rather than a rocky one. But scientists are still not clear about it its composition and atmosphere.
TOI-1231 b is pretty similar in density and size to Neptune, so that it might have a similarly large gaseous atmosphere, according to lead study author Jennifer Burt, a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. TOI1231b could have a hydrogen-helium atmosphere or large hydrogen or a denser water vapor atmosphere, Dragomir said. The different origins could be pointed out by each of these, allowing astronomers to understand around M dwarfs whether and how planets form differently.
As per the researchers’ belief, TOI-1231 b has an average temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, making it one of the coolest exoplanets. The cooler the exoplanet, the more likely it is to have clouds in its atmosphere.