An international team of scientists, led by Laetitia Delrez, astrophysicist at the University of Liège, Belgium, has announced the discovery of two ‘super-Earth’ type planets that are just 100 light years away from us—one of which is potentially habitable with an average life expectancy of 3,158 years.
As per the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), super-Earths are a unique class of exoplanets that are more massive than our own planet yet lighter than ice giants like Neptune and Uranus. They can be made of gas, rock or a combination of both and are between twice the size of Earth and up to ten times its mass.
As for the two newly-found planets, they circle a “relatively low activity” red dwarf star called TOI-4306. The first planet, LP 890-9b (or TOI-4306b), was initially identified by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a space mission dedicated to the search for exoplanets orbiting nearby stars.
LP 890-9b is about 30 per cent larger than Earth with a radius of more than 5,200 miles and circles its sun in just 2.7 days. Now, to put things into perspective, the current average life expectancy on Earth is 73.5 years. This would mean that the average life expectancy on this newly-discovered planet—as noted by LADbible—would be 9,943, given the fact that it records much shorter years than Earth due to its orbiting period.
That being said, it was the discovery of the second planet that really intrigued the team of scientists.
While using their SPECULOOS (Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) telescopes in Chile and Spain to take a closer look at the first planet, the University of Liège researchers stumbled across LP 890-9c (renamed SPECULOOS-2c). About 40 per cent bigger than Earth with a radius of more than 5,400 miles, the second planet has a longer orbital period of around 8.5 days. This statistic essentially places it in the so-called ‘habitable zone’ around its star.
“Although this planet orbits very close to its star, at a distance about ten times shorter than that of Mercury around our Sun, the amount of stellar irradiation it receives is still low, and could allow the presence of liquid water on the planet’s surface, provided it has a sufficient atmosphere,” explained co-author Francisco J. Pozuelos in a press release.
“This is because the star LP 890-9 is about 6.5 times smaller than the Sun and has a surface temperature half that of our star. This explains why LP 890-9c, despite being much closer to its star than the Earth is to the Sun, could still have conditions that are suitable for life.”
Now, if you happen to live on this second planet, you could possibly celebrate up to 3,158 birthdays. It’s safe to say that life already sounds like a series of parties on LP 890-9c.
But this ‘immortal’ conversation can’t be discussed without mentioning space billionaire Jeff Bezos’ 2021 headline-grabbing announcement of his anti-ageing venture called Altos Labs that essentially aims to ‘cheat death’ on our home planet itself. Crypto billionaire Brian Armstrong and bioengineer and tech investor Blake Byers have also previously admitted their plans to expand the human lifespan on Earth.
Back to exoplanets, however, CBS News mentioned that the team of researchers is now planning to study the atmosphere of LP 890-9c to determine just how habitable it could prove to be. Based on their findings, it’s also believed that it could be the second most favourable terrestrial planet to sustain human life.
“The discovery of LP 890-9c therefore offers a unique opportunity to better understand and constrain the habitability conditions around the smallest and coolest stars in our solar neighbourhood,” lead researcher Delrez concluded.