Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Iowa State astronomer helps discover planet that offers clues to Earth's future

14.09.2007
An international team of astronomers that includes Steve Kawaler of Iowa State University has announced the first discovery of a planet orbiting a star near the end of its life.

The announcement, culminating seven years of research, will be published in the Sept. 13 issue of the journal Nature.

The news provides a preliminary picture of what could be the Earth's destiny in four to five billion years. That's when the sun will exhaust its hydrogen fuel, expand enormously as a red giant and expel its outer layers in an explosive helium flash.

The planet discovered by the researchers, "V 391 Pegasi b," has survived all those changes to its sun.

The international research team was led by Roberto Silvotti from the INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte in Naples, Italy. They discovered the planet orbiting "V 391 Pegasi," a faint star in the constellation of Pegasus.

"The exciting thing about finding a planet around this star is that it indicates that planetary systems can survive the giant phase and the helium flash of their parent star," said Kawaler, an Iowa State professor of physics and astronomy. "It bodes well for the survival of our own Earth in the distant future. Before V 391 Pegasi lost its outer regions at the helium flash, the planet orbited the star at about the same distance that the Earth orbits our sun."

But, Kawaler said, "We shouldn't take too much heart in this -- this planet is larger than Jupiter, so a smaller planet like the Earth could still be vulnerable."

Kawaler helped the 23-member research team make its discovery by coordinating observations during a 2003 run of the Whole Earth Telescope. Iowa State is a lead institution in the Whole Earth Telescope, a worldwide network of cooperating observatories that allow astronomers to take uninterrupted measurements of variable stars that change in brightness. The discovery of V 391 Pegasi b was made by detailed measurements of the clocklike variation of the star caused by the planet tugging on it.

Kawaler also advanced the project by doing theoretical calculations to make sure irregularities of the star's orbital motion were caused by the orbiting planet.

The astronomers found that at the present time, V 391 Pegasi b has an orbital distance 1.7 times the medium distance between the Earth and the sun. As stars age and reach their red giant phase, they undergo an enormous expansion (with their volume increasing by a factor of millions) that can easily reach and engulf their inner planets.

"The same will happen to the sun," Silvotti said. "As far as our planets are concerned, we expect Mercury and Venus to disappear in the sun's envelope, whereas Mars should survive. The fate of the Earth is less clear because its position is really at the limit: it appears more likely that the Earth will not survive the red giant expansion of the sun either, but it is not for sure."

As is the case for almost all planets beyond our solar system, V 391 Pegasi b cannot be seen directly. Silvotti said it took seven years of observations and calculations to confirm the existence of the planet.

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

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Significantly more productivity in USP lasers
06.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT

nachricht Shape matters when light meets atom
05.12.2016 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore

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: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Speed data for the brain’s navigation system

06.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

What happens in the cell nucleus after fertilization

06.12.2016 | Life Sciences

IHP presents the fastest silicon-based transistor in the world

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>