Monday, 25 June, 2018

NASA Kepler satellite uncovers solar system with three Earth-sized planets

Exoplanet discovered by Indian scientists 600 light years away Representational Image. Source NASA
Elijah Vega | 11 June, 2018, 16:26

Prof. Abhijit Chakraborty and his team at PRL are the principal researchers behind this discovery. The system features a red dwarf star called K2-239 and at least three rocky planets with the same size as the Earth.

The discovery of new planets holds importance as it helps us understand the formation mechanism of super-Neptune or sub-Saturn type of planets that are extremely close to the host star.

Ahmedabad, have discovered an exoplanet that is larger than Neptune but smaller than Saturn. The mass of the planet has been estimated to be around 27 times the mass of the Earth whereas its radius is estimated to be 6 times that of the Earth. They measured the mass of the planet using the indigenously designed PRL Advance Radial-velocity Abu-sky Search or PARAS spectrograph integrated with the 1.2-metre telescope located at PRL's Gurushikhar Observatory in Mount Abu, Rajasthan. The host star's name is EPIC 211945201 or K2-236. The scientists estimate that over 60% of its mass could be made up of heavy elements like ice, silicates and iron. This is the first of its kind spectrograph in the country, which can measure the mass of a planet going around a star.

On the other hand, only a few such accurate and powerful spectrographs exist around the world, the majority of which being in the United States and Europe. The PRL scientists observed the target over a time-baseline of 420 days (in about 1.5 years) using the PARAS spectrograph for probing the nature of the system.

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In an exciting first, Indian scientists have discovered a sub-Saturn exoplanet orbiting a Sun-like star around 600 light-years away. It's very hard to discover an exoplanet because they are usually billions of times fainter than the stars they orbit. "Over the next few years, I expect that they will be able to make further contributions to this exciting field of astronomy".

According to Phys.org, the important discovery of these new planetary systems was made possible by the K2 mission that was undertaken with the use of NASA's Kepler satellite, with work that began in earnest in November, 2013.

Also published on Medium.

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