Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Dwarf that Carries a World

01.12.2005


HARPS Instrument Finds Neptune-Mass Exoplanet Around Small Star

A team of French and Swiss astronomers [1] have discovered one of the lightest exoplanets ever found using the HARPS instrument [2] on ESO’s 3.6-m telescope at La Silla (Chile). The new planet orbits a star belonging to the class of red dwarfs. As these stars are very common, this discovery proves crucial in the census of other planetary systems.

"Our finding possibly means that planets are rather frequent around the smallest stars," says Xavier Delfosse, from the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (France) and co-author of the paper relating the work. "It certainly tells us that red dwarfs are ideal targets for the search for exoplanets."



The host star, Gl 581 [3], is located 20.5 light-years away in the Libra constellation (The Scales), and has a mass of only one third the mass of the Sun. Such red dwarfs are at least 50 times fainter than the Sun and are the most common stars in our Galaxy: among the 100 closest stars to the Sun, 80 belong to this class.

Being so numerous in our vicinity, it is thus fundamental to know if such stars also harbour planets. Previous surveys were rather unsuccessful: observations of about 200 red dwarfs revealed only 2 with planets.

"But previous surveys may have missed many planets due to their insufficient precision," says Stéphane Udry, from the Geneva Observatory and co-author of the work. "This is why we decided to make use of the ultra-precise, second generation, HARPS spectrograph. Our new result indicates this was the right strategy."

The newly found planet is about 17 times the Earth’s mass, or about the mass of Neptune. It is therefore one of the smallest ever found [4]. It is rather close to its host star and completes a full circle in only 5.4 days: the mean distance is about 6 million kilometres. By comparison, Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, is at a distance of 58 million kilometres and completes an orbit in 88 days. Being so close, this alien world must be very hot, about 150 degrees.

The planet was revealed by the wobble it induces on the host star. With the HARPS very precise measurements, the astronomers found the star to move back and forth with a maximum velocity of 13 metres/second, or a little bit less than 50 km/h.

[1]: The team is composed of Xavier Bonfils (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (LAOG), France, and Geneva Observatory, Switzerland), Thierry Forveille (CFHT Corporation, Hawaii, USA and LAOG), Xavier Delfosse and Christian Perrier (LAOG), Stéphane Udry, Michel Mayor, Francesco Pepe, and Didier Queloz (Geneva Observatory), François Bouchy (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, France), and Jean-Louis Bertaux (Service d’Aéronomie du CNRS, France).

[2]: HARPS (High Accuracy Radial Velocity for Planetary Searches) is the most precise spectrograph to date, measuring radial velocities with a precision better than 1 m/s, or 3.6 km/h.

[3]: Gl 581, or Gliese 581, is the 581th entry in the Gliese Catalogue, which lists all known stars within 25 parsecs (81.5 light years) of the Sun. It was originally compiled by Gliese and published in 1969, and later updated by Gliese and Jahreiss in 1991.

[4]: Of the 170 exoplanets known today, 5 are possibly less massive than the one orbiting Gl 581: Gliese 876d (7.3 Earth’s masses, or 7.3 ME), HD 160691 d (14 ME), 55 Cnc e (14.4 ME), HD 212301 b (14.4 ME) and HD 4308 b (15 ME). The masses indicated are in fact minimum masses, as the inclination of the system is unknown. One Jupiter mass is 18.6 Neptune masses or 319 Earth masses.

Henri Boffin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2005/pr-30-05.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect
24.05.2017 | Vienna University of Technology

nachricht Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect
24.05.2017 | University of Cologne

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: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>