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Announcement 15-05-2024_an

The exo-Earth and its ultracool star: A new unprecedented discovery involving the Oukaimeden Observatory.

Recent breakthroughs at the Oukaimeden Observatory have propelled the field of exoplanet research forward with a groundbreaking discovery. This discovery, facilitated by the SPECULOOS project led by the University of Liège, has unveiled an Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting a nearby ultracool dwarf star. It's a significant milestone as it marks only the second planetary system found around such a star, with the Oukaimeden Observatory's TRAPPIST-North Telescope playing a pivotal role in the observation process.

The discovery

Named SPECULOOS-3 b, the newly found exoplanet orbits a star located approximately 55 light-years away from Earth. Despite its proximity to its host star, SPECULOOS-3 b shares remarkable similarities with our own planet, including its size and rotation patterns. Notably, its ultra-short orbital period, lasting around 17 hours, presents a unique opportunity for scientific inquiry, offering insights into planetary dynamics under extreme conditions.

The details

One notable aspect of SPECULOOS-3 b is its lack of atmosphere, a feature that sets it apart from many other exoplanets. While this presents challenges for potential habitability, it also offers scientists an intriguing opportunity to study the effects of extreme stellar radiation on planetary atmospheres. Moreover, the absence of an atmosphere makes SPECULOOS-3 b an ideal candidate for detailed observations using advanced instruments like the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

The next steps

This groundbreaking discovery underscores the importance of projects like SPECULOOS in advancing our understanding of exoplanets, particularly those that may harbor conditions similar to Earth. By leveraging cutting-edge technologies and international collaborations, astronomers are paving the way for future discoveries that could revolutionize our understanding of planetary systems beyond our solar system.

“This discovery demonstrates the ability of SPECULOOS to detect Earth-sized exoplanets that lend themselves well to detailed studies. This is just the beginning. Thanks to the financial support of the Walloon Region and the University of Liège, two new telescopes, Orion and Apollo, will soon join Artemis on the plateau of the Teide volcano in Tenerife to speed up the hunt for these fascinating planets” concludes Michaël Gillon.

The DOI number for the paper will be 10.1038/s41550-024-02271-2

Once the paper has been published online, it will be available at the following URL:  https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-024-02271-2

Contacts :

Zouhair Benkhaldoun, Cadi Ayyad University: zouhair@uca.ac.ma

Michaël Gillon – Université de Liège:  michael.gillon@uliege.be