The Hubble Space Telescope takes center stage in the cosmic show, where stars twinkle, and galaxies dance, spotlighting a stellar revelation. Meet LTT 1445Ac, the rocky marvel just 22 light years away, now confirmed as the closest Earth-sized exoplanet to our solar system.
LTT 1445Ac, donning a diameter 1.07 times that of Earth, emerges from the cosmic shadows as a rocky counterpart to our home planet. Its gravitational embrace is slightly firmer, with a mass reaching 1.37 times that of Earth. The celestial ballet unfolds as this exoplanet graces the foreground of its stellar host, a diminutive red dwarf star, during a luminous transit event. However, the radiant glow conceals a surface temperature of a scorching 500 degrees Fahrenheit, rendering it inhospitable to the prospect of life.
Navigating the cosmic seas of discovery is no simple feat, especially when it comes to exoplanets — elusive and shrouded in the vastness of space. Enter the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the initial cosmic scout that detected LTT 1445Ac. Yet, TESS’s findings were like an overture, hinting at the exoplanet’s existence without a conclusive symphony of data.
Concerns echoed among astronomers about a potential “grazing transit,” where the exoplanet’s passage might have only skimmed the edge of its stellar partner, casting uncertainty on measurements. Cue the Hubble Space Telescope, a cosmic virtuoso armed with unparalleled capabilities. With precision akin to a masterful stroke, Hubble laid bare the actual dimensions of LTT 1445Ac, dispelling any lingering doubts.
From the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Emily Pass expressed the significance of Hubble’s role, stating, “There was a chance that this system has an unlucky geometry, and if that’s the case, we wouldn’t measure the right size. But with Hubble’s capabilities, we nailed its diameter.”
In the grand cosmic narrative, the James Webb Telescope is the heir apparent to Hubble’s legacy. Together, they beckon toward future chapters of exploration. As telescopic companions, they promise to unravel the enigma of LTT 1445Ac — probing its atmospheric secrets and enriching our understanding of distant planetary realms.
This cosmic ballet underscores the collaborative dance of space telescopes, illuminating the celestial tapestry and offering glimpses into the diverse exoplanetary landscapes that embellish the cosmic stage.