Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Trio of Neptunes and their Belt

18.05.2006


HARPS Instrument Finds Unusual Planetary System


Planetary System Around HD 69830 (Artist’s Impression) The HARPS measurement reveal the presence of three planets with masses between 10 and 18 Earth masses around HD 69830, a rather normal star slightly less massive than the Sun. The planets’ mean distance are 0.08, 0.19, and 0.63 the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun. From previous observations, it seems that there exists also an asteroid belt, whose location is unknown. It could either lie between the two outermost planets, or farther from its parent star than 0.8 the mean Earth-Sun distance.



Using the ultra-precise HARPS spectrograph on ESO’s 3.6-m telescope at La Silla (Chile), a team of European astronomers have discovered that a nearby star is host to three Neptune-mass planets. The innermost planet is most probably rocky, while the outermost is the first known Neptune-mass planet to reside in the habitable zone. This unique system is likely further enriched by an asteroid belt.

“For the first time, we have discovered a planetary system composed of several Neptune-mass planets”, said Christophe Lovis, from the Geneva Observatory and lead-author of the paper presenting the results (1).


During more than two years, the astronomers carefully studied HD 69830, a rather inconspicuous nearby star slightly less massive than the Sun. Located 41 light-years away towards the constellation of Puppis (the Stern), it is, with a visual magnitude of 5.95, just visible with the unaided eye. The astronomers’ precise radial-velocity measurements (2) allowed them to discover the presence of three tiny companions orbiting their parent star in 8.67, 31.6 and 197 days.

“Only ESO’s HARPS instrument installed at the La Silla Observatory, Chile, made it possible to uncover these planets”, said Michel Mayor, also from Geneva Observatory, and HARPS Principal Investigator. “Without any doubt, it is presently the world’s most precise planet-hunting machine” (3).

The detected velocity variations are between 2 and 3 metres per second, corresponding to about 9 km/h! That’s the speed of a person walking briskly. Such tiny signals could not have been distinguished from ‘simple noise’ by most of today’s available spectrographs.

The newly found planets have minimum masses between 10 and 18 times the mass of the Earth. Extensive theoretical simulations favour an essentially rocky composition for the inner planet, and a rocky/gas structure for the middle one. The outer planet has probably accreted some ice during its formation, and is likely to be made of a rocky/icy core surrounded by a quite massive envelope. Further calculations have also shown that the system is in a dynamically stable configuration.

The outer planet also appears to be located near the inner edge of the habitable zone, where liquid water can exist at the surface of rocky/icy bodies. Although this planet is probably not Earth-like due to its heavy mass, its discovery opens the way to exciting perspectives.

With three roughly equal-mass planets, one being in the habitable zone, and an asteroid belt, this planetary system shares many properties with our own solar system.

“This alone makes this system already exceptional”, said Willy Benz, from Bern University, and co-author. “But the recent discovery by the Spitzer Space Telescope that the star most likely hosts an asteroid belt is adding the cherry to the cake.”

“The planetary system around HD 69830 clearly represents a Rosetta stone in our understanding of how planets form”, said Michel Mayor. “No doubt it will help us better understand the huge diversity we have observed since the first extra-solar planet was found 11 years ago.”

Notes

(1) These results appear in the 18 May issue of the research journal Nature (“Discovery of an extrasolar planetary system with three Neptune-Mass Planets”, by C. Lovis et al.). The team is composed of Christophe Lovis, Michel Mayor, Francesco Pepe, Didier Queloz, and Stéphane Udry (Observatoire de l’Université de Genève, Switzerland), Nuno C. Santos (Observatoire de l’Université de Genève, Switzerland, Centro de Astronomia e Astrofisica da Universidade de Lisboa and Centro de Geofisica de Evora, Portugal), Yann Alibert, Willy Benz, Christoph Mordasini (Physikalisches Institut der Universität Bern, Switzerland), François Bouchy (Observatoire de Haute-Provence and IAP, France), Alexandre C. M. Correia (Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal), Jacques Laskar (IMCCE-CNRS, Paris, France), Jean-Loup Bertaux (Service d’Aéronomie du CNRS, France), and Jean-Pierre Sivan (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, France).

(2) A planet in orbit around a star will manifest its presence by pulling the star in different directions, thereby changing by rather small amounts its measured velocity. Astronomers therefore measure with very high precision the velocity of a star to detect the signature of one or more planets.

(3) The High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at the ESO La Silla 3.6-m telescope is dedicated to the discovery of extrasolar planets. It is a fibre-fed high-resolution echelle spectrograph that has demonstrated a long-term precision of about 1 m/s

Henri Boffin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2006/pr-18-06.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Molecule flash mob
19.01.2017 | Technische Universität Wien

nachricht Magnetic moment of a single antiproton determined with greatest precision ever
19.01.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

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: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>