James Webb will observe a potentially water-covered planet


Thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope, researchers can directly observe an “ocean planet” for the first time. An international team of researchers, custodians of the University of Montreal in Canada, has announced the discovery of a very special object in the Constellation of the Dragon. There they have discovered a couple of stars, one of which is accompanied by an exoplanet unlike any other, and now they will do everything possible to test a very interesting hypothesis. The celestial body in question is about 70% larger than our Earth, but it is not this element that intrigues the researchers. What makes it remarkable is that, like our planet, it is in the habitable zone of its star. It is a space where the planets receive a very precise amount of energy from their celestial body; the conditions are compatible with the presence of liquid water. A “real” blue planet? According to the researchers, it could be an “ocean world”. It is a class of celestial bodies whose surface would be almost entirely covered with a very large amount of liquid water, because its low density can only be explained by a large amount of liquid. Their existence is supported by all cosmological models, but these objects have never been directly observed. Technically, therefore, they remain theoretical. But thanks to preliminary observations made with the TESS telescope, specialists have determined that water accounts for about 30% of the mass of this exoplanet! By comparison, this element represents only 1% of the mass of our “Blue Planet”. Therefore, the authors of this work believe that it could be an “ocean world”. “TOI-1452 b is one of the best candidates for the ocean planet state to date,” says Charles Cadieux, a PhD student at the University of Montreal. “Its diameter and mass suggest a much lower density than would be expected from a planet made of rock and metal, like Earth,” he explains. And for researchers, that’s a pretty exciting prospect in many ways. In fact, water is an essential substrate for carbon-based life as we know it on Earth. If there are extraterrestrial life forms that have evolved according to the same pattern, then these planets could be great breeding grounds where specialists could find new species, or more likely clues to the emergence of life and associated biological processes. © NASA James Webb to the rescue The good news is that researchers will be able to examine it in excellent conditions. In fact, the Dragon is a so-called “circumpolar” constellation. This means that it is visible all year round. Therefore, it is possible to observe it for extended periods. This makes it an excellent subject for study, and astronomers will not be deprived of it. To decide, they will turn to the new darling of the discipline, the famous James Webb space telescope. The authors have already announced that they will reserve observation time. The goal: to drive this gem to 10 billion in TOI-1452 b. Thanks to the proximity of the constellation Draco and the exceptional performance of the machine, they will surely be able to determine whether or not they have made the first observation of an “ocean world”. It’s just a matter of waiting for a spot to become available in the queue for this popular machine. The research paper is available here.
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