Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

First super-Earths discovered around Sun-like stars

15.12.2009
Two nearby stars have been found to harbor "super-Earths"¯ rocky planets larger than the Earth but smaller than ice giants such as Uranus and Neptune. Unlike previously discovered stars with super-Earths, both of the stars are similar to the Sun, suggesting to scientists that low-mass planets may be common around nearby stars.

"Over the last 12 years or so nearly 400 planets have been found, and the vast majority of them have been very large¯Jupiter mass or even larger," says researcher Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. "These latest planets are part of a new trend of finding much smaller planets – planets that are more comparable to Earth."

The international team of researchers, co-led by Butler and Steven Vogt of the University of California, Santa Cruz, was able to detect the new planetary systems by combining data from observations spanning several years at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the Anglo-Australian Telescope in New South Wales, Australia. The researchers used the subtle "wobbling" of the stars caused by the planets' gravitational pull to determine the planets' size and orbits. Greg Henry at Tennessee State University independently monitored the brightness of the stars to rule out stellar "jitter"¯roiling of gases on a star's surface that can be confused with a planet-induced wobble.

The bright star 61 Virginis, visible with the naked eye in the constellation Virgo, is only 28 light-years from Earth and closely resembles the Sun in size, age and other properties. Earlier studies had eliminated the possibility of a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting 61 Virginis. In this study, the researchers found evidence of three low-mass planets, the smallest of which is five times the mass of Earth and speeds around the star once every four days.

Butler points out that the signal produced by this planet was one of the smallest ever detected. "One has to be very cautious when you claim a discovery," he says. "What gives us confidence is that we see the signal from two separate telescopes, and the two signals match up perfectly."

The other newly-discovered system orbits the star HD 1461, located 76 light-years from Earth. HD 1461 also closely resembles the Sun and is visible in the constellation Cetus. The researchers found clear evidence for one planet 7.5 times the mass of Earth and possible indications of two others. The 7.5-Earth-mass planet, designated HD 1461b, is intermediate in size between Earth and Uranus. It orbits its star once every six days.

These planets have orbits close to their stars and so they would be too hot to support life or liquid water. But Butler says that they point the way toward finding similar planets in similar orbits around nearby M-dwarfs, stars that are typically less than half the mass of the Sun and typically put out less than two percent the Sun's energy. "These sorts of planets around M dwarfs actually would be in a liquid water zone," he says. "So we are knocking on the door right now of being able to find habitable planets."

The discoveries are reported in two papers accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. In addition to Vogt and Butler, the coauthors of the two papers include Eugenio Rivera, Greg Laughlin, and Stefano Meschiari of the University of California, Santa Cruz; Greg Henry at Tennessee State University; Chris Tinney, Rob Wittenmyer, and Jeremy Bailey of the University of New South Wales, Australia; Simon O'Toole of the Anglo-Australian Observatory, Australia; Hugh Jones of the University of Hertfordshire, U.K.; Brad Carter of the University of Southern Queensland, Australia; and Konstantin Batygin of the California Institute of Technology.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, and NASA's Office of Space Science, the NASA Keck PI program, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

The Carnegie Institution (www.CIW.edu) has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research since 1902. It is a private, nonprofit organization with six research departments throughout the U.S. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science.

The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), founded in 1998, is a partnership between NASA, 16 U.S. teams, and five international consortia. NAI's goal is to promote, conduct, and lead interdisciplinary astrobiology research and to train a new generation of astrobiology researchers. For more information, see http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/nai.

Paul Butler | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ciw.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy
24.03.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

nachricht Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core
24.03.2017 | 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: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>