Montreal Astronomers Discovered An 'Ocean Planet' 100 Light-Years From Earth

Researchers believe the exoplanet is likely rocky as Earth.

Associate Editor, MTL Blog
Artistic rendition of the exoplanet TOI-1452 b, a small planet that may be entirely covered in a deep ocean.

Artistic rendition of the exoplanet TOI-1452 b, a small planet that may be entirely covered in a deep ocean.

An international team of researchers led by Charles Cadieux, a Ph.D. student at the Université de Montréal and member of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx), announced the discovery of TOI-1452 b, "an exoplanet orbiting one of two small stars in a binary system located in the Draco constellation about 100 light-years from Earth."

According to a UdeM Nouvelles press release, the exoplanet, which astronomers believe could be an "ocean planet," is greater in size and mass than planet Earth. Considering its distance from its star, researchers believe that the temperature of this newly discovered planet would be "neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist on its surface."

Similarly to some of Jupiter and Saturn's moons, astronomers believe that TOI-1452 b is a planet "covered by a thick layer of water."

The observation was first made by NASA's space telescope TESS, which "surveys the entire sky in search of planetary systems close to our own." The team at the Université de Montréal performed a follow-up observation using a camera installed on the Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic (OMM), which was developed by UdeM professor David Lafrenière and his Ph.D student, François-René Lachapelle.

"It is thanks to the OMM, a special instrument designed in our labs called SPIRou, and an innovative analytic method developed by our research team that we were able to detect this one-of-a-kind exoplanet," said René Doyon, Université de Montréal Professor and Director of iREx and of the Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic.

"I’m extremely proud of this discovery because it shows the high calibre of our researchers and instrumentation."

Researchers believe the exoplanet is likely rocky like Earth. However, its radius, mass and density suggest a world "very different from our own."

"TOI-1452 b is one of the best candidates for an ocean planet that we have found to date," said Cadieux. "Its radius and mass suggest a much lower density than what one would expect for a planet that is basically made up of metal and rock, like Earth."

The team plans to further observe their findings with the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be essential to better understand TOI-1452 b. "As soon as we can, we will book time on Webb to observe this strange and wonderful world," Doyon said.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

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