There is more important work for the James Webb Space Telescope. A team of astronomers at the University of Montreal hopes to use it to study a newly found planet beyond our solar system (an exoplanet) that could be almost completely covered in water.
Astronomers believe that TOI-1452 b, larger in size and mass than Earth, could be an “ocean planet” covered by a thick layer of water, much more than Earth. That’s because though about 70% of Earth’s surface is covered by ocean, water makes up actually less than 1% of its mass.
On this newly found planet, water might make up between 20-30% of its mass.
TOI-1452 b appears to have a temperate climate because of the distance from the star it orbits, but don’t get your space suit ready just yet. We probably won’t be relocating there anytime soon. Though astronomers say it’s close, close for them is still about 100 light-years from Earth.
USA TODAY Editorial Board Member Carli Pierson spoke with Ph.D. student Charles Cadieux, who led the team in its discovery of this potential new “water world.” Their discussion has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Tell me about your discovery.
In the search for life, we’re always interested in temperate planets. We announced the discovery of a new exoplanet that is different from other planets in our solar system. We have gaseous planets like Jupiter and rocky planets like Earth. We know there is a new kind of planet between what is rocky and gaseous: This new exoplanet is one of them.
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Do you think humankind could eventually live on TOI-1452 b?
We don’t have the ability to travel to other stars, not in the short term. We have only one world, one planet.
We don’t know the temperature there but it’s not too hot, not too cold. There are a lot of uncertainties about the composition of the atmosphere. That is the next step. So, even if we say the temperature is 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), there is a possibility the surface temperature is much higher because of a greenhouse effect. But that is something we don’t know because we don’t know the atmospheric property. If you were on that planet, the surface would be all water.