Scientists at NASA recently discovered an Earth-sized planet within the habitable zone of a nearby star. This means the conditions may be right for liquid water to exist on the planet. It’s an incredibly rare discovery, and only a handful of similar worlds have been discovered to date.
On January 6, 2020, Emily Gilbert, a graduate student at the University of Chicago in Illinois, announced she and a team of colleagues had uncovered three new worlds in a faraway solar system using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). One of the planets, TOI 700 d, is an especially important find. It is about the same size as Earth and orbits its host star at a distance that would allow water to remain liquid on its surface.
Space is always an exciting topic for students of all ages. From the discovery of new planets to life beyond Earth’s atmosphere and space exploration, it’s a great way to start an engaging conversation about science.
Our expert researchers have vetted the most current content to give you easy answers about the basics. Here’s what you need to know right now:
- TOI 700d is about 20 percent larger than Earth and orbits around its host star every 37 days.
- The planet orbits a small, cool star called TOI 700 that is located 100 light-years from Earth. TOI 700 is about 40 percent of the Sun’s mass and size and approximately half as hot.
- Launched in 2018, TESS was designed to find Earth-sized planets orbiting nearby stars. It looks for any noteworthy changes in brightness that could be a sign of a planet passing in front of a nearby star.
- To date, TESS has discovered more than 1,500 potential planets using this method.
- NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope was used to confirm the findings of TESS. Spitzer gave scientists a more accurate understanding of the planet’s size and orbital period.
- The TESS research team that discovered TOI 700 d includes high school student Alton Spencer
Now that you know the facts about the discovery of a new Earth-sized planet that could possibly support life, check out these fascinating human-interest stories from around the world.
Depending on the ages of your students and the topics you teach, Earth and Space Science offer a wide variety of interesting classroom discussion ideas.
General discussions about hot topics and current affairs
- What is NASA and what does it do?
- Why do scientists care about other celestial bodies?
- What are other countries doing to explore space?
Lead into relevant science curriculum topics
- How does Earth compare to other planets in size and features?
- How do scientists observe and explore space from Earth?
- What kinds of objects are in the sky?
Check out these links to stay up to date on the topic.
- Earth & space science tie-ins
- Planets in the Solar System
- Comparing the size and features of planets
- Changes in space over time
- Technology used to observe space
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