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 Taking a spin on plasma space tornadoes with NASA observations
20.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth
17.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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 “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>