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 Junior scientists at the University of Rostock invent a funnel for light
27.03.2020 | Universität Rostock

nachricht Ultrafast and broadband perovskite photodetectors for large-dynamic-range imaging
23.03.2020 | Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

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: Junior scientists at the University of Rostock invent a funnel for light

Together with their colleagues from the University of Würzburg, physicists from the group of Professor Alexander Szameit at the University of Rostock have devised a “funnel” for photons. Their discovery was recently published in the renowned journal Science and holds great promise for novel ultra-sensitive detectors as well as innovative applications in telecommunications and information processing.

The quantum-optical properties of light and its interaction with matter has fascinated the Rostock professor Alexander Szameit since College.

Im Focus: Stem Cells and Nerves Interact in Tissue Regeneration and Cancer Progression

Researchers at the University of Zurich show that different stem cell populations are innervated in distinct ways. Innervation may therefore be crucial for proper tissue regeneration. They also demonstrate that cancer stem cells likewise establish contacts with nerves. Targeting tumour innervation could thus lead to new cancer therapies.

Stem cells can generate a variety of specific tissues and are increasingly used for clinical applications such as the replacement of bone or cartilage....

Im Focus: Artificial solid fog material creates pleasant laser light

An international research team led by Kiel University develops an extremely porous material made of "white graphene" for new laser light applications

With a porosity of 99.99 %, it consists practically only of air, making it one of the lightest materials in the world: Aerobornitride is the name of the...

Im Focus: Cross-technology communication in the Internet of Things significantly simplified

Researchers at Graz University of Technology have developed a framework by which wireless devices with different radio technologies will be able to communicate directly with each other.

Whether networked vehicles that warn of traffic jams in real time, household appliances that can be operated remotely, "wearables" that monitor physical...

Im Focus: Peppered with gold

Research team presents novel transmitter for terahertz waves

Terahertz waves are becoming ever more important in science and technology. They enable us to unravel the properties of future materials, test the quality of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“4th Hybrid Materials and Structures 2020” takes place over the internet

26.03.2020 | Event News

Most significant international Learning Analytics conference will take place – fully online

23.03.2020 | Event News

MOC2020: Fraunhofer IOF organises international micro-optics conference in Jena

03.03.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

3D printer sensors could make breath tests for diabetes possible

27.03.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

TU Bergakademie Freiberg researches virus inhibitors from the sea

27.03.2020 | Life Sciences

The Venus flytrap effect: new study shows progress in immune proteins research

27.03.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>