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Daily Dose of Astronomy

Newly Discovered Exoplanet Revealed: An Oceanic World Double Earth’s Size

Discover the enigmatic exoplanet TOI-733b, a rare, ocean-covered world twice Earth’s size, offering new insights into the mysteries of planet formation and the intriguing ‘radius valley’. Explore how this distant planet, discovered by NASA’s TESS telescope, might hold key answers to the evolution of celestial bodies in the universe.

In a recent breakthrough, astronomers have unveiled the existence of a unique exoplanet, nearly double the size of Earth and enveloped by vast oceans. This intriguing celestial body, designated as TOI-733b, adds to the ever-expanding catalog of over 5,000 known exoplanets, a journey that began in the 1990s.

The planet was discovered by TESS. Credit: Pixabay/@Peter Schmidt

Situated 245 light-years from Earth, TOI-733b was discovered by the keen eyes of NASA’s TESS telescope. It circles a star resembling our own Sun, completing an orbit in a mere 4.9 days. This proximity and similarity offer a rich opportunity to deepen our understanding of how planets form and evolve in the cosmos.

TOI-733b stands out due to its peculiar size. It exists in a rarely populated size range among exoplanets, larger than the so-called super-Earths and smaller than mini-Neptunes. This intermediate size reveals much about the mysterious ‘radius valley’ – a gap in the typical sizes of exoplanets. NASA’s scientists theorize that this gap might signify the remnants of Neptune-like planets, whose atmospheres were stripped away, leaving behind bare cores.

Led by Iskra Georgieva from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, a team of astronomers is particularly thrilled about what TOI-733b can reveal. Their research, soon to be published in Astronomy & Astrophysics and currently available on arXiv, focuses on unraveling the secrets of planets within this elusive radius valley.

Initial studies indicate that TOI-733b might have lost its original atmosphere or could be an aquatic world. Its proximity to its host star suggests a gradual depletion of its atmosphere, possibly transforming it into a rocky planet. Alternative theories propose the loss of lighter elements like hydrogen and helium, potentially leading to a water vapor-dominated atmosphere or a secondary atmosphere composed of heavier elements.

This discovery is not just a single addition to the exoplanet roster but a potential key to understanding planet formation and evolution. As astronomers continue their research, aided by advanced technologies, TOI-733b stands as a beacon in our quest to decipher the mysteries of the universe.