TOI 1231 B, A Neptune Like Exoplanet That Could Have Life

From what it is, to what it could mean for future discoveries, and more! Allow me to show you how NASA discovered TOI-1231 b, a NEptune like exoplanet that could have life! 7.The Planet Details So let’s start out by talking about what TOI-123 b is as a planet as a whole, shall we? Using data from TESS, a large, international team of astronomers led by Dr. Jennifer Burt, an exoplanet researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, and Professor Diana Dragomir, an exoplanet researcher at the University of New Mexico, announced the discovery of TOI-1231 b in a new paper. The discovery was entered into NASA’s Exoplanet Archive on June 3. Located 90 light-years away from Earth, TOI-1231 b orbits a red-dwarf star – smaller but longer lived than our own Sun – with a year, once around the star, that is 24 days long. But the planet stays relatively cool despite its close orbit because its star also is on the cooler side. Though not habitable due to its size, the planet could offer scientists one of their first chances to capture a “bar-code” type reading of the atmosphere of a temperate, Neptune-sized exoplanet – a planet orbiting another star. This will allow comparisons with similar worlds elsewhere in the galaxy, bringing potentially deep insights into the composition and formation of exoplanets and planetary systems, including our own. A new era in the study of exoplanets is just beginning, as we move from simply detecting these planets, and counting them up, to zeroing in on individual worlds to analyze their atmospheres. With a technique called transmission spectroscopy, scientists should be able to use the Hubble Space Telescope – and soon the far more sensitive James Webb Space Telescope – to capture starlight shining through the atmosphere of TOI-1231 b. Molecules in this planet’s atmosphere will absorb slices of light from this spectrum, leaving dark lines that can be read like a bar-code, revealing which gases are present. The planet’s red-dwarf star, though small, is quite bright in the infrared part of the light spectrum, or light beyond the red end of the spectrum that can’t be seen with the naked eye. It is, however, ideal for investigation by Hubble and Webb. Also helpful: From our perspective on Earth, TOI-1231 b crosses the face of its star, which allowed its detection in the first place by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). And that crossing, called a “transit,” takes nearly 3 ½ hours – plenty of time to capture and analyze starlight shining through the planet’s atmosphere. As you can tell, there’s already a lot of work going into analyzing this planet and what it’s all about. And we do know some things that could absolutely change how we view exoplanets like these. 6. The Atmosphere What is really getting NASA and others excited about the new planet discovery is that TOI-1231 b’s atmosphere might worth looking at for all sorts of reasons. For example, because of its composition, there are many who would say that this planet could have water clouds within the atmosphere, and if that’s true, that’s a big win: “Future observations of this new planet will let us determine just how common (or rare) it is for water clouds to form around these temperate worlds,” Jennifer Burt, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and lead author of the new research, said in a statement from the University of New Mexico, which was also involved in the research. The irony of this query is that currently they’re having a rough time trying to figure out the actual composition of the planet. Because of its location (again, 90 light-years away) among other things it’s hard to pierce the atmosphere to go and get a better look. Their best guesses is that the planet is composed of water vapor, or possibly even helium and hydrogen, or potentially even a mix between the two. This is where their “transmission spectroscopy” comes in. They’re hoping it’ll literally shed a light on the subject and help bring attention to what is really there. Hubble will also look for evidence of a “tail” emanating from the planet, which would appear if atoms of hydrogen or helium were visible as the planet transited across the face of its star. Which would definitely go and give the planet a unique look and feel compared to all the other planets out there. Before we continue, be sure to like or dislike the video that way we can continue to make better videos for you, the viewers! Also, be sure to like subscribe to the channel! 5. Could There Be Life On This Planet? That is a question that honestly doesn’t have that easy of an answer. Mainly because, as noted, NASA hasn’t been able to really look at the inside of the atmosphere or the planet to get a good notion of what could or might be in there. But, if we’re looking at the details we DO have, there is potential. Based on its temperature readings, the planet measures at about 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Which obviously is quite a bit warmer than most spots on Earth. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t life there. It just means it’d have to go and be a life that can adapt to the heat. Plus, just it’s a planet with no likely land masses (that we can tell) doesn’t mean that life can’t exist in a watery state. After all, our own oceans are full of things like this. There are even creatures that live in geothermal vents on the bottom of the ocean that pour out an enormous amount of heat and yet…life finds a way. The temperature of planets like these are often times the breaking point of potential life because they’re usually either way too hot (and thus the planet is a boiling gas giant or a scorched wasteland of a planet) or it’s too cold (making a icy tundra world or one where the gases present are well below zero). So if you think about it, the temperature only being about 34 degrees above what a “very hot day” would be on Earth isn’t that bad. And if life WERE to find a way to live on the planet…that would be quite something. Wouldn’t you say? Of course, this won’t help if the Hubble Space Telescope is broken… 4. Fixing The Hubble NASA is continuing to diagnose a problem with the payload computer on the Hubble Space Telescope after completing another set of tests on June 23 and 24. The payload computer halted on June 13 and the spacecraft stopped collecting science data. The telescope itself and its science instruments remain in good health and are currently in a safe configuration. The spacecraft has two payload computers, one of which serves as a backup, that are located on the Science Instrument and Command and Data Handling unit. Over the next week, the team will continue to assess hardware on the SI C&DH unit to identify if something else may be causing the problem. If the team determines the CU/SDF or the power regulator is the likely cause, they will recommend switching to the backup CU/SDF module and the backup power regulator. Which is good because the Hubble Space Telescope is something that many use to try and explore space, and locate other things like TOI-1231b. So the sooner it gets back online? The better we can see things with. For example… 3. Galactic Collision Take a look at this image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, what do you think you’re seeing here? The image features the interacting galaxy pair IC 1623, which lies around 275 million light-years away in the constellation Cetus (the Whale). The two galaxies are in the final stages of merging, and astronomers expect a powerful inflow of gas to ignite a frenzied burst of star formation in the resulting compact starburst galaxy. This interacting pair of galaxies is a familiar sight; Hubble captured IC 1623 in 2008 using two filters at optical and infrared wavelengths on the Advanced Camera for Surveys. This image incorporates data from Wide Field Camera 3, and combines observations taken in eight filters spanning infrared to ultraviolet wavelengths to reveal the finer details of IC 1623. More data is going to be collected as time goes on, and you don’t have to be a scientist or an astronomer to go and marvel at what is happening here. This is an event of massive proportions and we’re able to see it via the telescopes that we have positioned to look at the universe as a whole. In fact, if you look at it long enough, it almost seems as though everything is moving, you know? And if this is one thing that we can see on this telescope, and TOI-1231b is another, you almost have to wonder what else is out there for NASA and humanity as a whole to explore. 2. Finding More Planets Hearing about all of these things might make you ask a few questions…or a lot of them. For example, with TOI-1231b, you might think, “Well we found a Neptune-like planet, so what?” Well, the answer to that is…a lot of “whats?” Mainly in that this is a question of what else is out there that we don’t know about. Because if you recall, this is a planet that is comprised of things like Neptune, and yet has a temperature that is only a bit above what it is on Earth. That’s not common, at all. That’s why so many people are interested in things like this. By finding more of these exoplanets, and researching them for things like composition, makeup, potential for life and water, it helps fill in a lot of peaces to a puzzle. A puzzle that many people want solved for a whole bunch of reasons. By using things like the Hubble or TESS we get to see planets that are out of our reach, yes, but that we can still study. And we’re still very much looking for the legendary “Class M World” that might be able to house humanity in the future. Will we find it? It’s very possible. But until we do, we’re going to keep looking for planets that pique our interest like TOI-1231b. Because by learning more about these worlds, we learn more about what else is out there for us to find, discover, and learn from. 1. The Mysteries Of Space TOI-1231b is honestly just the latest in a long line of discoveries of planets that have mystified us as a world. There are all sorts of planets that seem to boggle the mind and the imagination for a whole host of reasons. For example, there are planets that are made up in large part by diamonds that would needless to say go and solve any monetary problems we’d have if we were to go and mine it. There are planets so dark that they don’t reflect any light at all. There are planets shaped like eggs, planets that are pink, planets that are half-cold and half-hot and on and on it goes. By finding these planets and pointing out their uniqueness we learn more about the wonders of the universe and can start to unravel the mysteries that they hold. If we’re able to do that, then who knows what we might be able to do once we go and reach those stars and planets one day? TOI-1231b may only seem like a small fish in a very large pond, but that doesn’t mean we don’t study the fish. Thanks for watching! What did you think of this look at TOI-1231b and how it might just be a planet that could have life on it? Do you think that this is truly what we’re going to discover as we look closer at this planet? Or do you think that there is more going on here than we suspect, or maybe even, less than we think? Let us know in the comments below