Nearby Planetary System Discovery: Two Earth-sized Planets

Image (Credit): Artist’s image of two new planets orbiting HD 260655. (NASA)

MIT News reports a star about 33 light years away contains two Earth-like planets, one that is 1.2 times the size of the Earth and the second that is about 1.5 times the size.

The discovery of these exoplanets orbiting the M-dwarf star, named HD 260655, came about when scientists combined data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) with data from the High Resolution Echelle Spectrometer (HIRES) in Hawaii and CARMENES at the Calar Alto Observatory in Spain. 

While both planets are too close to their sun, and thereby too hot to have liquid water on their surface, they are still objects for further study. The article quotes Michelle Kunimoto, a postdoc in MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and one of the discovery’s lead scientists:

Both planets in this system are each considered among the best targets for atmospheric study because of the brightness of their star…Is there a volatile-rich atmosphere around these planets? And are there signs of water or carbon-based species? These planets are fantastic test beds for those explorations.