Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ground-based detection of super-Earth transit paves way to remote sensing of exoplanets

01.12.2014

For the first time, a team of astronomers - including York University Professor Ray Jayawardhana - have measured the passing of a super-Earth in front of a bright, nearby Sun-like star using a ground-based telescope.

The transit of the exoplanet 55 Cancri e is the shallowest detected from the ground yet, and the success bodes well for characterizing the many small planets that upcoming space missions are expected to discover in the next few years.


This image shows Earth and Super-Earth.

Credit: NASA/JPL

The international research team used the 2.5-meter Nordic Optical Telescope on the island of La Palma, Spain - a moderate-sized facility by today's standards - to make the detection. Previous observations of this planet transit had to rely on space-borne telescopes.

During its transit, the planet crosses its host star, 55 Cancri, located just 40 light-years away from us and visible to the naked eye, blocking a tiny fraction of the starlight, dimming the star by 1/2000th (or 0.05%) for almost two hours.

"Our observations show that we can detect the transits of small planets around Sun-like stars using ground-based telescopes," says Dr. Ernst de Mooij, of Queen's University Belfast, UK, the study's lead author. "This is especially important because upcoming space missions such as TESS and PLATO should find many small planets around bright stars."

TESS is a NASA mission scheduled for launch in 2017, while PLATO is to be launched in 2024 by the European Space Agency; both will search for transiting terrestrial planets around nearby bright stars.

"It's remarkable what we can do by pushing the limits of existing telescopes and instruments, despite the complications posed by the Earth's own turbulent atmosphere," says Jayawardhana, the study's co-author and de Mooij's former postdoctoral supervisor. "Observations like these are paving the way as we strive towards searching for signs of life on alien planets from afar. Remote sensing across tens of light-years isn't easy, but it can be done with the right technique and a bit of ingenuity."

The planet 55 Cancri e is about twice as big and eight times as massive as the Earth. With a period of 18 hours, it is the innermost of five planets in the system. Because of its proximity to the host star, the planet's dayside temperature reaches over 1700 Celsius - hot enough to melt metal - with conditions quite inhospitable to life.

Initially identified a decade ago through radial velocity measurements, it was later confirmed through transit observations with MOST and Spitzer space telescopes. Until now, the transits of only one other super-Earth, GJ 1214b circling a red dwarf, had been observed with ground-based telescopes. The Earth's roiling air makes such observations extremely difficult. But the team's success with 55 Cancri e raises the prospects of characterizing dozens of super-Earths likely to be revealed by upcoming surveys.

Next, the team plans to search for steam (water) in the planet's atmosphere.

The research team also includes Mercedes Lopez-Morales of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, as well as Raine Karjalainen and Marie Hrudkova of the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes. Their findings will appear in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

York University is helping to shape the global thinkers and thinking that will define tomorrow. York U's unwavering commitment to excellence reflects a rich diversity of perspectives and a strong sense of social responsibility that sets us apart. A York U degree empowers graduates to thrive in the world and achieve their life goals through a rigorous academic foundation balanced by real-world experiential education. As a globally recognized research centre. York U is fully engaged in the critical discussions that lead to innovative solutions to the most pressing local and global social challenges. York U's 11 faculties and 25 research centres are thinking bigger, broader and more globally, partnering with 280 leading universities worldwide. York U's community is strong? 55,000 students, 7,000 faculty and staff, and more than 270,000 alumni.

Robin Heron | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.yorku.ca/

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 >>>