"This is the most exciting exoplanet I've seen in the past decade", said lead author Jason Dittmann of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).
The planet is LHS 1140b - a "super-Earth" only about 1.4 times the size of our planet, but with about 6.6 times its mass - that circles its star in what astronomers call the habitable zone, a region around a star where water is able to exist on a planet's surface.
Although it is 1.4 times the size of Earth, its mass is seven times greater, implying a dense world made of rock with an iron core.
This red dwarf, however, probably had a much more active youth, during which it would have bathed the planet in harsher ultraviolet light, potentially stripping water from any existing atmosphere and contributing to a runaway greenhouse effect. Charbonneau said recent studies show that the Trappist planets may not be rocky like Earth, while Trappist discoverer Michael Gillon said the newest planet has such intense gravity that its atmosphere may be smooshed down so telescopes can't get a good look at it. It receives roughly half as much sunlight as Earth gets from the sun but even so LHS 1140b orbits in the "Goldilocks zone" - a habitable sweet spot where conditions are not too cold and not too hot for liquid water to form on the surface of the exoplanet. It's not so far away, either.
Since the star it orbits is quite small and relatively close to us, it may be possible for current telescopes and those now under construction to determine if the planet has an atmosphere.
He calls the planet a "Super Earth", not because it's any better than our blue-green sphere, but because it "is somewhere between the size of the Earth (the largest rocky planet in the Solar System) and Neptune".
The super-Earth and its parent star are located in the constellation Cetus, the Whale, 39 light years from the Sun, thus - relatively speaking - putting it in our galactic "neighbourhood", according to Felipe Murgas, the coauthor of the study and a researcher with Spain's Canary Islands Institute of Astrophysics. It orbits a small M-dwarf star every 24 days. That's because they're the most abundant stars in the galaxy and some of the easier stars to capture transit signals from.
McDonald's pit stop led police to Facebook killer Other members of Godwin's family have said they forgive Stephens and only wanted him to receive the help he needed. Police said Stephens led them on a two-mile pursuit before he took out a pistol and shot himself in the head. " ...
The MEarth-South instruments enabled scientists to measure the planet's diameter and, using the HARPS spectrograph at the LaSilla ESO Observatory in Chile, they also were able to measure its mass, density and orbital period. This Earth-like planet is only four light-years away, making it our closet-known celestial cousin.
There are also lessons to glean from, and apply to, the TRAPPIST-1 system whose discovery was announced in February this year. We also expect - and hope to check with future data - that the star is very quiet at high energies as well.
Furthermore, scientists believe that the red dwarf, as we see it today, is emitting less high-energy radiation and spinning slower than other stars of its type, both of which are factors conducive to life.
However, scientists believe that LHS 1140b may yield better results when it comes to aliens.
Water is one of the main ingredients and the team behind the research say that chemical reactions on the planet could have given in an abundance of water.
To confirm the planet's existence the team of astronomers used three professional telescopes and the help of an amateur in Perth, Australia. "We've been delighted to hear about the discovery of LHS by our colleagues from Harvard", he said. "We plan to search for water, and ultimately molecular oxygen". But they're particularly excited to use NASA's powerful James Webb Space Telescope, which is supposed to launch late next year.
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