Rediscovery of a Lost Planet Paves Way for Detection of a Habitable “Goldilocks Zone” World

Next-Generation Transit Survey

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The Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) lies at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. This nighttime long-exposure view reveals the telescopes throughout screening. The really fantastic Moon appears in the center of the photo and the VISTA (right) and VLT (left) domes can likewise be seen on the horizon. Credit: ESO/G. Lambert

The rediscovery of a lost world might lead the way for the detection of a world within the habitable ‘Goldilocks zone’ in a remote planetary system.

  • Discovery of cooler world brings astronomers closer to discovering more worlds in the habitable ‘Goldilocks zone’
  • Found thanks to brand-new approach originated by University of Warwick group created to find worlds orbiting even more out of their star
  • NGTS-11b is amongst numerous ‘lost’ worlds that can now be discovered with the NGTS telescopes utilizing this unique strategy

The rediscovery of a lost world might lead the way for the detection of a world within the habitable ‘Goldilocks zone’ in a remote planetary system.

The world, the size and mass of Saturn with an orbit of thirty-five days, is amongst numerous ‘lost’ worlds that University of Warwick astronomers are pioneering a brand-new approach to locate and characterise in the hope of discovering cooler worlds like those in our planetary system, and even possibly habitable worlds.

Reported in Astrophysical Journal Letters, the world called NGTS-11b orbits a star 620 light-years away and lies 5 times closer to its sun than Earth is to our own.

The world was initially discovered in a look for worlds in 2018 by the Warwick-led group utilizing information from NASA’s TESS telescope. This utilizes the transit approach to find worlds, scanning for the obvious dip in light from the star that shows that a things has actually passed in between the telescope and the star. However, TESS just scans most areas of the sky for 27 days. This suggests much of the longer duration worlds just transit as soon as in the TESS information. And without a 2nd observation the world is efficiently lost. The University of Warwick led group followed up among these ‘lost’ worlds utilizing the telescopes at the Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) in Chile and observed the star for seventy-nine nights, ultimately capturing the world transiting for a 2nd time almost a year after the very first found transit.

Dr Samuel Gill from the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick stated: “By chasing that 2nd transit down we’ve discovered a longer duration world. It’s the very first of ideally lots of such discovers pressing to longer durations.

“These discoveries are unusual however essential, considering that they enable us to discover longer duration worlds than other astronomers are discovering. Longer duration worlds are cooler, more like the worlds in our own Solar System.

“NGTS-11b has a temperature level of just 160°C – cooler than Mercury and Venus. Although this is still too hot to support life as we understand it, it is better to the Goldilocks zone than lots of formerly found worlds which usually have temperature levels above 1000°C.”

The Goldilocks zone describes a variety of orbits that would enable a world or moon to support liquid water: too near to its star and it will be too hot, however too far and it will be too cold.

Co-author Dr Daniel Bayliss from the University of Warwick stated: “This planet is out at a thirty-five days orbit, which is a much longer period than we usually find them. It is exciting to see the Goldilocks zone within our sights.”

Co-author Professor Pete Wheatley from the University of Warwick stated: “The initial transit appeared simply as soon as in the TESS information, and it was our group’s painstaking investigator work that permitted us to discover it once again a year later on with NGTS.

“NGTS has twelve state-of-the-art telescopes, which means that we can monitor multiple stars for months on end, searching for lost planets. The dip in light from the transit is only 1% deep and occurs only once every 35 days, putting it out of reach of other telescopes. ”

Dr Gill includes: “There are hundreds of single transits detected by TESS that we will be monitoring using this method. This will allow us to discover cooler exoplanets of all sizes, including planets more like those in our own Solar System. Some of these will be small rocky planets in the Goldilocks zone that are cool enough to host liquid water oceans and potentially extraterrestrial life.”


Reference: “NGTS-11 b / TOI-1847 b: A transiting warm Saturn recovered from a TESS single-transit event” by Samuel Gill, Peter J. Wheatley, Benjamin F. Cooke, Andrés Jordán, Louise D. Nielsen, Daniel Bayliss, David R. Anderson, Jose I. Vines, Monika Lendl, Jack S. Acton, David J. Armstrong, François Bouchy, Rafael Brahm, Edward M. Bryant, Matthew R. Burleigh, Sarah L. Casewell, Philipp Eigmüller, Néstor Espinoza, Edward Gillen, Michael R. Goad, Nolan Grieves, Maximilian N. Günther, Thomas Henning, Melissa J. Hobson, Aleisha Hogan, James S. Jenkins, James McCormac, Maximiliano Moyano, Hugh P. Osborn, Don Pollacco, Didier Queloz, Heike Rauer, Liam Raynard, Felipe Rojas, Paula Sarkis, Alexis M. S. Smith, Marcelo Tala Pinto, Rosanna H. Tilbrook, Stéphane Udry, Christopher A. Watson and Richard G. West, 20 July 2020, Astrophysical Journal Letters.
DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ab9eb9

The research study, consisting of the operation of NGTS, got financing and assistance from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), part of UK Research and Innovation.

The participation of Dr David Armstrong from the University of Warwick in the research study was supported by STFC, through an Ernest Rutherford Fellowship.

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