Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Kepler spacecraft helps astronomers find tiny planet beyond our solar system

21.02.2013
An international team of astronomers has used nearly three years of high precision data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft to make the first observations of a planet outside our solar system that’s smaller than Mercury, the smallest planet orbiting our sun.
The planet is about the size of the Earth’s moon. It is one of three planets orbiting a star designated Kepler-37 in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the Milky Way.

The findings were published online on Feb. 20 by the journal Nature. The lead authors are Thomas Barclay of the NASA Ames Research Center in California and the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute and Jason Rowe of NASA Ames and the SETI Institute in California.

Steve Kawaler, an Iowa State University professor of physics and astronomy, was part of a team of researchers who studied the oscillations of Kepler-37 to determine its size. “That’s basically listening to the star by measuring sound waves,” Kawaler said. “The bigger the star, the lower the frequency, or ‘pitch’ of its song.”

The team determined Kepler-37’s mass is about 80 percent the mass of our sun. That’s the lowest mass star astronomers have been able to measure using oscillation data for an ordinary star.

Those measurements also allowed the main research team to more accurately measure the three planets orbiting Kepler-37, including the tiny Kepler-37b.

“Owing to its extremely small size, similar to that of the Earth’s moon, and highly irradiated surface, Kepler-37b is very likely a rocky planet with no atmosphere or water, similar to Mercury,” the astronomers wrote in a summary of their findings. “The detection of such a small planet shows for the first time that stellar systems host planets much smaller as well as much larger than anything we see in our own Solar System.”

Kawaler said the discovery is exciting because of what it says about the Kepler Mission’s capabilities to discover new planetary systems around other stars.

Kepler launched March 6, 2009, from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The spacecraft is orbiting the sun carrying a photometer, or light meter, to measure changes in the brightness of thousands of stars. Its primary job is to detect tiny variations in the brightness of the stars within its view to indicate planets passing in front of the star. Astronomers with the Kepler team are looking for earth-like planets that might be able to support life.

The Kepler Asteroseismic Investigation is also using data from that photometer to study stars. The investigation is led by a four-member steering committee: Kawaler, Chair Ron Gilliland of the Space Telescope Science Institute based in Baltimore, Jorgen Christensen-Dalsgaard and Hans Kjeldsen, both of Aarhus University in Denmark.

Kawaler said Kepler is sending astronomers photometry data that’s “probably the best we’ll see in our lifetimes.” This latest discovery shows astronomers “we have a proven technology for finding small planets around other stars.”

That could have implications for some big-picture discoveries: “While a sample of only one planet is too small to use for determination of occurrence rates,” the astronomers wrote in the Nature paper, “it does lend weight to the belief that planet occurrence increases exponentially with decreasing planet size.”

Steve Kawaler | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.iastate.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form
18.08.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht Astrophysicists explain the mysterious behavior of cosmic rays
18.08.2017 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

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: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>