Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

First Earth-Sized, Rocky Exoplanet Found

05.11.2013
A team of astronomers has found the first Earth-sized planet outside the solar system that has a rocky composition like that of Earth.

This exoplanet, known as Kepler-78b, orbits its star very closely every 8.5 hours, making it much too hot to support life. The results are being published in the journal Nature.

This Earth-sized planet was discovered using data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, and confirmed and characterized with the W. M. Keck Observatory.

Every 8.5 hours the planet passes in front of its host star, blocking a small fraction of the starlight. These telltale dimmings were picked up by researchers analyzing the Kepler data.

The team led by Dr. Andrew Howard (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii at Manoa) then measured the mass of the planet with the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, in Hawaii. Using the ten-meter Keck I telescope fitted with the HIRES instrument, the team employed the radial velocity method to measure how much an orbiting planet causes its star to wobble, to determine the planet’s mass. This is another excellent example of the synergy between the Kepler survey, which has identified more than 3,000 potential exoplanet candidates, and Keck Observatory, which plays a leading role in conducting precise Doppler measurements of the exoplanet candidates.

A handful of planets the size or mass of Earth have been discovered recently. This is the first one with both quantities measured. “When you have both the size and the mass of an object, you can calculate its density, and thereby determine its composition,” explained Howard.

With a radius about 1.2 times of Earth's and a mass equal to about 1.7 times Earth’s, Kepler-78b has a density the same as Earth’s, suggesting that it is also made primarily of rock and iron. Its star is slightly smaller and less massive than the sun and is located about 400 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

Kepler-78b is a member of a new class of “ultrashort period” planets recently identified by the Kepler spacecraft. These newfound worlds all orbit their stars with orbital periods of less than 12 hours. They’re also small, about one-to-two times the size of Earth. Kepler-78b is the first planet in this new class to have its mass measured. It is a mystery how these planets formed and made it so close to their host stars (only 1 percent of the Earth-Sun separation in the case of Kepler-78b).

A companion study led by Dr. Francesco Pepe (University of Geneva, Switzerland) used the same Kepler data but independent radial velocity observations and is being published in the same issue.

The two studies found similar results. “The gold standard in science is having your findings reproduced by other researchers,” explained Howard. “In this case, we did not have to wait for this to happen.”

The other members of Howard’s team are Roberto Sanchis-Ojeda (MIT), who analyzed the transit data taken by the Kepler spacecraft to find the planet and calculate its size, Dr. Geoffrey Marcy (University of California, Berkeley), Dr. John Johnson (Harvard), Dr. Debra Fischer (Yale), Benjamin Fulton and Evan Sinukoff (UHM graduate students), and Dr. Jonathan Fortney (University of California, Santa Cruz).

HIRES (the High-Resolution Echelle Spectrometer) produces spectra of single objects at very high spectral resolution, yet covering a wide wavelength range. It does this by separating the light into many "stripes" of spectra stacked across a mosaic of three large CCD detectors. HIRES is famous for finding planets orbiting other stars. Astronomers also use HIRES to study distant galaxies and quasars, finding clues to the Big Bang.

The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectroscopy and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. The Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

Science Contact:
Dr. Andrew Howard
howard@ifa.hawaii.edu
808-208-1224

Steve Jefferson | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.keckobservatory.org

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers
21.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy
21.04.2017 | Stockholm University

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>