A “super Earth” has been found 100 light years away and scientists suspect it’s a lot like the “Waterworld” depicted in Kevin Costner’s 1995 science-fiction film.
Named TOI-1452 b, the planet appears to be one big ocean, according to the NASA Exoplanets Facebook page.
Its atmosphere — and potential to host life — are mysteries scientists hope to solve with the help of NASA’s recently deployed James Webb Space Telescope.
“The exoplanet … is slightly greater in size and mass than Earth and is located at distance from its star where its temperature would be neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist on its surface,” the university reports.
“Astronomers believe it could be an ‘ocean planet,’ a planet completely covered by a thick layer of water.”
In the film “Waterworld,” future earth is depicted as a planet drowning in water after polar ice caps melted. Remnants of civilization are relegated to floating communities, where the populace dream of finding dry land.
Scientists say the “strange and wonderful” TOI-1452 b is nearly 70% larger than Earth “and its density can only be explained if a large fraction of (its) mass is made up of volatiles such as water.”
“TOI-1452 b is one of the best candidates for an ocean planet that we have found to date,” according to a statement released by Charles Cadieux, a Ph.D. student who led the international team.
“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.”
In our solar system, the closet comparisons are Jupiter’s Ganymede and Callisto, and Saturn’s Titan and Enceladus — four watery moons “believed to hide deep oceans under shells of ice,” NASA says.
The surface of the earth is 70% water, but water makes up only 1% of the planet’s mass, scientists say. A computer simulation of conditions on TOI-1452 b revealed “water could make up as much as 30% of its mass,” NASA reports.
Another big difference: A year on TOI-1452 b is only 11 days, due to its proximity to a red-dwarf star that is “smaller and cooler than our Sun.”
“The planet receives a similar amount of light from its star as Venus does from our sun,” NASA says.
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