Astronomers discover rare Super-Earth Exoplanet | Daily News


Astronomers discover rare Super-Earth Exoplanet

Space is boundless, with enumerable unknown cosmic objects orbiting around their host star. It has always been speculated that there may be some planets in the cosmic world—exactly like the ones where we live. However, only recently, astronomers were able to find the clues of one such rare Super-Earth, which is very similar to our home planet. The planet was found orbiting its small host star towards the centre of the milky-way galaxy, about 25,000 light-years away from the Earth.

According to the researchers from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, the discovery is rare as the rocky planet is similar to Earth in terms of size, and orbit. Until now, astronomers have not discovered any exoplanet which has a close similarity to planet Earth. NASA has estimated that out of the 4,154 confirmed exoplanets so far, only around a third are found to be rocky and similar to Earth, with varying size and orbit. The discovery was published in the Astronomical Journal.

The mass of the new rocky exoplanet is said to be four times more than that of the Earth. Astronomers predict estimated mass to be somewhere between that of Earth and Neptune. Meanwhile, the exoplanet orbits its host star at a distance that would fall somewhere between the orbits of Venus and Earth around the Sun. As compared to Earth, one year of the exoplanet lasts about approximately 617 days.

“To have an idea of the rarity of the detection, the time it took to observe the magnification due to the host star was approximately five days, while the planet was detected only during a small five-hour distortion. After confirming this was indeed caused by another ‘body’ different from the star, and not an instrumental error, we proceeded to obtain the characteristics of the star-planet system,” said, Dr Herrera Martin, the lead author of the study in a statement.

Researchers have also revealed that the mass of the host star around which it orbits is very small. The parent star was spotted in the galactic bulge at the centre of the Milkyway galaxy. As of now, the planet is called OGLE-2018-BLG-0677, and is still waiting for an easy nickname.

The super Earth-like exoplanet was discovered using a technique called gravitational microlensing. It is based on a space phenomenon, where light from a distant source gets magnified due to gravity and helps to reveal the near objects. “The combined gravity of the planet and its host star caused the light from a more distant background star to be magnified in a particular way. We used telescopes distributed around the world to measure the light-bending effect,” said Dr Martin.

To detect the presence of an exoplanet, scientists combined the microlensing data from the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment in Poland and the Korea Microlensing Telescope Network—comprising of telescopes in Chile, South Africa, and Australia. All these telescopes are equipped with large cameras that are used to measure the light coming out from 100 million stars every 15 minutes. Moreover, astronomers describe microlensing, as a very rare phenomenon—as only about one in a million stars in the milky-galaxy get exposed to the light at any given time. Furthermore, it is hard to study, as this type of observation does not repeat often. This makes the chances of capturing any space object with telescopes extremely low. Now, astronomers are planning to know more about the planet’s and its host star’s properties, which will help to reveal whether the planet is habitable. But according to researchers, given the challenges involved, this will not happen soon.

Nevertheless, astronomers also believe that the discovery of any such exoplanets is important in determining the possibility of life beyond the planet Earth.

(Weather Channel)

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