Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Astronomy student discovers 17 new planets, including Earth-sized world

28.02.2020

University of British Columbia astronomy student Michelle Kunimoto has discovered 17 new planets, including a potentially habitable, Earth-sized world, by combing through data gathered by NASA's Kepler mission.

Over its original four-year mission, the Kepler satellite looked for planets, especially those that lie in the "Habitable Zones" of their stars, where liquid water could exist on a rocky planet's surface.


Sizes of the 17 new planet candidates, compared to Mars, Earth, and Neptune. The planet in green is KIC-7340288 b, a rare rocky planet in the Habitable Zone

Credit: Michelle Kunimoto

The new findings, published in The Astronomical Journal, include one such particularly rare planet. Officially named KIC-7340288 b, the planet discovered by Kunimoto is just 1 ½ times the size of Earth - small enough to be considered rocky, instead of gaseous like the giant planets of the Solar System - and in the habitable zone of its star.

"This planet is about a thousand light years away, so we're not getting there anytime soon!" said Kunimoto, a PhD candidate in the department of physics and astronomy. "But this is a really exciting find, since there have only been 15 small, confirmed planets in the Habitable Zone found in Kepler data so far."

The planet has a year that is 142 ½ days long, orbiting its star at 0.444 Astronomical Units (AU, the distance between Earth and our Sun) - just bigger than Mercury's orbit in our Solar System, and gets about a third of the light Earth gets from the Sun.

Of the other 16 new planets discovered, the smallest is only two-thirds the size of Earth - one of the smallest planets to be found with Kepler so far. The rest range in size up to eight times the size of Earth.

Kunimoto is no stranger to discovering planets: she previously discovered four during her undergraduate degree at UBC. Now working on her PhD at UBC, she used what is known as the "transit method" to look for the planets among the roughly 200,000 stars observed by the Kepler mission.

"Every time a planet passes in front of a star, it blocks a portion of that star's light and causes a temporary decrease in the star's brightness," Kunimoto said. "By finding these dips, known as transits, you can start to piece together information about the planet, such as its size and how long it takes to orbit."

Kunimoto also collaborated with UBC alumnus Henry Ngo to obtain razor-sharp follow-up images of some of her planet-hosting stars with the Near InfraRed Imager and Spectrometer (NIRI) on the Gemini North 8-metre Telescope in Hawaii.

"I took images of the stars as if from space, using adaptive optics," she said. "I was able to tell if there was a star nearby that could have affected Kepler's measurements, such as being the cause of the dip itself."

In addition to the new planets, Kunimoto was able to observe thousands of known Kepler planets using the transit-method, and will be reanalysing the exoplanet census as a whole.

"We'll be estimating how many planets are expected for stars with different temperatures," said Kunimoto's PhD supervisor and UBC professor Jaymie Matthews. "A particularly important result will be finding a terrestrial Habitable Zone planet occurrence rate. How many Earth-like planets are there? Stay tuned."

Media Contact

Sachi Wickramasinghe
sachi.wickramasinghe@ubc.ca
604-822-4636

 @UBCnews

http://www.ubc.ca

Sachi Wickramasinghe | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://news.ubc.ca/2020/02/28/ubc-student-discovers-17-new-planets-including-potentially-habitable-earth-sized-world/
http://dx.doi.org/10.3847/1538-3881/ab6cf8

Further reports about: Earth-like planets Kepler Sun giant planets habitable zone

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Atoms at the photo shoot
03.08.2020 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

nachricht Collisions in the solar system: Bayreuth researchers explain the origins of stony-iron meteorites
03.08.2020 | Universität Bayreuth

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: TU Graz Researchers synthesize nanoparticles tailored for special applications

“Core-shell” clusters pave the way for new efficient nanomaterials that make catalysts, magnetic and laser sensors or measuring devices for detecting electromagnetic radiation more efficient.

Whether in innovative high-tech materials, more powerful computer chips, pharmaceuticals or in the field of renewable energies, nanoparticles – smallest...

Im Focus: Tailored light inspired by nature

An international research team with Prof. Cornelia Denz from the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Münster develop for the first time light fields using caustics that do not change during propagation. With the new method, the physicists cleverly exploit light structures that can be seen in rainbows or when light is transmitted through drinking glasses.

Modern applications as high resolution microsopy or micro- or nanoscale material processing require customized laser beams that do not change during...

Im Focus: NYUAD astrophysicist investigates the possibility of life below the surface of Mars

  • A rover expected to explore below the surface of Mars in 2022 has the potential to provide more insights
  • The findings published in Scientific Reports, Springer Nature suggests the presence of traces of water on Mars, raising the question of the possibility of a life-supporting environment

Although no life has been detected on the Martian surface, a new study from astrophysicist and research scientist at the Center for Space Science at NYU Abu...

Im Focus: Manipulating non-magnetic atoms in a chromium halide enables tuning of magnetic properties

New approach creates synthetic layered magnets with unprecedented level of control over their magnetic properties

The magnetic properties of a chromium halide can be tuned by manipulating the non-magnetic atoms in the material, a team, led by Boston College researchers,...

Im Focus: A new method to significantly increase the range and stability of optical tweezers

Scientists of Tomsk Polytechnic University jointly with a team of the V.E. Zuev Institute of Atmospheric Optics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences have discovered a method to increase the operation range of optical traps also known

Optical tweezers are a device which uses a laser beam to move micron-sized objects such as living cells, proteins, and molecules. In 2018, the American...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2020”: The final touches for surfaces

23.07.2020 | Event News

Conference radar for cybersecurity

21.07.2020 | Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Share and browse technologies, research and best practices on COVID-19

03.08.2020 | Information Technology

Strong evidence – Essential regulatory gene for the formation of heart valves discovered

03.08.2020 | Life Sciences

Understanding collective behavior in networks better

03.08.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>