91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

This new planet could support life. An MSU expert helped NASA find it.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Robert Hurt
Newly discovered Earth-size planet TOI 700 e orbits within the habitable zone of its star in this illustration. Its Earth-size sibling, TOI 700 d, can be seen in the distance.

A team of astronomy researchers has made an exciting discovery about a planetary system that could potentially support biological life.

Michigan State University professor Joey Rodriguez is part of that team. Three years ago, they discovered a planetary system orbiting a star about 100 light years from Earth.

At the time, they found one planet within the so-called “habitable zone”—about the right distance from the star to possibly foster life as we know it.

Now, they’ve announced the discovery of a second planet also in the habitable zone. It’s the first known system with two planets in that zone outside of our own solar system. The planet was named TOI-700 e.

Rodriguez says the researchers have already made headway toward finding out the planets’ mass and basic composition.

“And that's the first step to sort of really understand their whole composition," he said. "And then, of course, study the atmospheres and look for key things like water, look for ozone.”

Rodriguez says that sort of study is feasible because the system is relatively close to Earth.

The team’s next steps are to determine the mass and general composition of those planets.

They also want to look at the planets’ atmospheres, to see if there are key biological signs like water and ozone.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
Related Content