Two Earth-Like Planets Spotted in a Nearby Multiplanet System

Astronomers have discovered one of the nearest known multiplanet systems in our galaxy’s neighborhood. NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite discovered the system approximately 10 parsecs or 33 light-years away from Earth (TESS). Michelle Kunimoto, a postdoc at the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research at MIT and one of the discovery’s lead scientists, discovered the system in October 2021 while analyzing TESS data.

A star, HD 260655, at the center of the system was revealed to host at least two Earth-like terrestrial planets, which added to the intrigue of astronomers.

Kunimoto observed two periodic dips in the brightness emitted by HD 260655. The signals were then categorized as TESS Objects of Interest (TOIs) or possible planets utilizing the mission’s science inspection pathway. Using archival data, the time required to classify HD 260655 was decreased, despite the fact that such a process can take several years.

Kunimoto discovered that the High-Resolution Echelle Spectrometer (HIRES) also observed the star HD 260655. It is an instrument utilized as part of the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. In addition, the same star was identified in an independent survey conducted by CARMENES, which is part of the Calar Altar Observatory in Spain.

Kunimoto and his team contacted HIRES and CARMENES and pooled their respective data. The cooperation established the presence of two planets around HD 260655.

“Because of the brilliance of their star, both planets in this system are among the best targets for atmosphere research,” stated Kunimoto.

Astronomers concluded that the inner planet, HD 260655b, orbits the star every 2.8 days, and the outer planet, HD 260655c, orbits the star every 5.7 days. The inner planet was discovered to be twice as massive as Earth, while the outer planet was three times as massive.

The team determined based on the density of the two planets that they are terrestrial or rocky like Earth. However, the planets’ high temperatures make them unlikely to be livable. “We consider that range to be outside the habitable zone because it is too hot for liquid water to exist on the surface,” Kunimoto continued.

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