Two ‘Super-Earth’ Planets Discovered Orbiting a Star 100 Light-years Away

by Megan Molseed

Scientists have discovered two planets dubbed to be “super-earth” planets orbiting a small star hundreds of light years away. And, experts say, one of these “super-earth” planets may even be hosting alien life.

The ‘Super-Earth’ Planets Are About Twice The Size Of Earth And Nearly 10 Times The Mass

“Super-Earth planets are a class of exoplanets. An exoplanet is a planet that orbits a star outside of the solar system. These “super-earth” planets are much more massive than Earth. However, they are lighter than the “ice giant” plants such as Neptune or Uranus.

Super-Earths can be composed of two elements, gas or rock. They can even be a combination of both. Super-Earths are found often within our galaxy and are usually around twice the size of our planet. They are usually around 10 times the mass of earth as well, due to their size.

Could These Newly Discovered Planets Be Hosting Life?

The two “super-Earth” planets are about 100 light years away from our own. And, one of these planets is likely to be providing conditions for alien life.

LP 890-9b measures around 30 percent larger than our own planet. This “super-Earth completes an orbit around its star in nearly three days. LP 890-9c, however, is the bigger of the two. This planet is about 40 percent larger than Earth. The orbital period for this planet is around eight and a half days. This, scientists say, puts LP 890-9c in the “habitable zone.”

These two newly discovered planets are orbiting the star LP 890-9. The planets themselves are named LP 890-9b and LP 890-9c. NASA scientists first discovered LP 890-9b using TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite).

From there, the NASA experts set out to discover more about these planets using a specialized SPECULOOS telescope at the University of Birmingham. Using this technology, scientists soon identified the second planet.

‘The goal of SPECULOOS is to search for potentially habitable terrestrial planets transiting some of the smallest and coolest stars in the solar [neighborhood],” Michaël Gillon, the principal investigator of the SPECULOOS project.

“Such as the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system,” Gillon adds. “Which we discovered in 2016.”

The Name “Super-Earth” Doesn’t Mean The Planets Are Just Like Our Own

The name “Super-Earth” could be misleading, experts say. “Earth” may be in the name of these unique planets, but they aren’t necessarily similar to the Earth. Primarily, a “super-Earth” planet doesn’t necessarily have the same composition as our planet. They can be covered in water or ice. They can even be made of dense gas.