Newly uncovered super-Earth 31 light-years away may be habitable

An illustration of the 3 planets around a star known as GJ 357. Photo: NASA

NASA announced Wednesday that its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has uncovered a potentially habitable planet just 31 light-years away from our solar system.

Why it matters: TESS member and associate professor of astronomy Lisa Kaltenegger, who led the international team and who is also director of Cornell's Carl Sagan Institute, said in a statement the discovery of the exoplanet, named GJ 357 d, "is humanity's first nearby super-Earth that could harbor life."

The big picture: Astronomers from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands and the University of La Laguna, Spain, published the findings on the GJ 357 system in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, and they were presented at an exoplanet conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Wednesday.

  • The astronomers detected via TESS another planet orbiting the same star, named GJ 357, and deeper research by Spanish astronomers led to the discovery of 2 more planets in the system — including the super-Earth, GJ 357 d, which takes almost 56 days to orbit its host star at a distance roughly one-fifth of that between Earth and the sun.
  • The other 2 known planets in the star system, GJ 357 b and GJ 357 c, are believed to be far too hot to be habitable, according to Kaltenegger.

What's next? Kaltenegger said a pair of next-generation telescopes in Chile should reveal more details once operating in 2025 about the super-Earth, including whether it is rocky or has oceans, per NBC News.

Go deeper: What scientists look for to tell if an exoplanet is habitable

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Record-setting longest commercial flight arrives in Sydney from NYC

The Qantas team at Sydney Airport after it flew nonstop from New York City. Photo: James D. Morgan/Getty Images for Qantas

Qantas confirmed in a statement that it's completed a test for the world's longest flight, with its plane landing at Sydney Airport after flying for 19 hours 16 minutes from New York City's JFK Airport.

Why it matters: Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, who was aboard the Boeing 787-9, hailed the achievement as a "significant first for aviation" that he hopes will become a regular, time-saving service for passengers. Researchers monitored pilots' brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness during the flight.

What's next: The Australian firm plans two more research flights — one from London to Sydney in November and another New York to Sydney in December, Qantas said.

Nestor lashes Georgia; tornadoes rake Florida

Nestor spawned a tornado that damaged this car in Cape Coral, Florida, on Saturday. Photo: Cape Coral Fire Department/Facebook

After Nestor lashed Florida, spawning destructive tornadoes, the post-tropical storm downed trees and caused power outages in Georgia Saturday night with heavy rains and powerful winds, WSB-TV reports.

The latest: The National Hurricane Center said isolated flash flooding was possible across the southeastern U.S. into Sunday. The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Godwinsville, Georgia, and flash-flood alerts for areas in the state including Eastman, Abbeville and Chester.

Astronauts step outside for first all-female spacewalk in history

NASA's Christina Koch during a spacewalk on Friday. Photo: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch stepped into the vacuum of space for a history-making spacewalk outside of the International Space Station on Friday.

Why it matters: While American women have been flying in space since Sally Ride made her first trip to orbit in 1983, today's spacewalk marks the first all-female spacewalk in history.

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