A rocky super-earth has been found in the habitable zone of a cool star close to the sun

Related Articles

Related Articles

One of the most successful techniques presently in use for detecting expolantes is the search for transits.

Similar to the way the Moon cuts off the light of the Sun during an eclipse, a transit is produced when a planet orbiting a distant star cuts off a small fraction of its light when it passes between us and the star. There are many projects dedicated to detecting and monitoring small variations in the light from many stars in the hope of discovering an extrasolar planet.

One of these projects is MEarth, which uses a network of 40 cm telescopes to measure the light from hundreds of stars. In Setember 2014 MEarth detected a possible transit in the star named LHS 1140. Thanks to a thorough piece of research using data from MEarth-South, at the Interamerican Observatory of Cerro Tololo, Chile, and with the HARPS spectrograph on the 3.6m telescope at the La Silla Observatory of the European Southern Observatory, ESO (also in Chile) a planet was confirmed orbiting around this star with a period of 25 days. This spectrograph was designed especially for the detection and study of extrasolar planets. An almost identical twin instrument is installed at the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (TNG) at the Roque de los Muchachos Obseratory, in Garafía (La Palma).

 

The planet in question, given the name LHS 1140b is in orbit around an M-type star. This type of stars, with sizes and luminosities less than those of the Sun,are the most abundant stars in the Galaxy. This planetary system is at only 40 light years from Earth, in other words in the solar neighbourhood. An international team, of which the IAC researcher Felipe Murgas is a member, was able to establish the size and mass of the planet as 1.4 times the radius of the Earth, and 6.6 times the mass of the Earth, respectively. Because of its size, and high mass, it is very probable that the planet has a rocky composition.

“This is the most exciting exoplanet which I have seen in the last ten years” comments Jason Dittmann of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics (CfA), the first author of the article in Nature. “It would be difficult to find a better objective for carrying out one of the most important searches in science: for evidence of life beyond the Earth”.

Another important aspect of the discovery is that LMS 1140b is orbiting its star in the so-called “zone of habitability”, the region around a star in which the temperature makes it possible for water to exist in all of its three phases: solid liquid, and gas. This is, as we know, one of the requirements for the existence of life as we know it on Earth.

“Because it is at a distance from its star which permits relatively cool temperatures, and a mass which is big enough to prevent the evaporation of an atmosphere due to the wind of its star, LHS 1140b has become one of the most promising candidates for the detection and study of its atmosphere, using the next generation of telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, (JWST)and the European Extrmely Large Telescope (E-ELT)” concludes Felipe Murgas.

INSTITUTO DE ASTROFÍSICA DE CANARIAS (IAC)

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

LATEST NEWS

The Modhera Sun Temple

The Sun Temple is an ancient Hindu temple complex located on a latitude of 23.6° (near Tropic of Cancer) on the banks of the Pushpavati river at Modhera in Gujarat, India.

Scientists Hunt For Lost WW2 Bunkers Designed to Hold Off Invasion

New research published by scientists from Keele, Staffordshire and London South Bank Universities, has unveiled extraordinary new insights into a forgotten band of secret fighters created to slow down potential invaders during World War Two.

Sea Ice Triggered the Little Ice Age

A new study finds a trigger for the Little Ice Age that cooled Europe from the 1300s through mid-1800s, and supports surprising model results suggesting that under the right conditions sudden climate changes can occur spontaneously, without external forcing.

The Two Fanjingshan Temples

Fanjingshan Temple is actually two temples, located on the “Red Clouds Golden Summit or Golden Peak” on Fanjingshan Mountain (also known as Mount Fanjing), the highest point of the Wuling Mountains in southwestern China.

Venus’ Ancient Layered, Folded Rocks Point to Volcanic Origin

An international team of researchers has found that some of the oldest terrain on Venus, known as tesserae, have layering that seems consistent with volcanic activity. The finding could provide insights into the enigmatic planet's geological history.

Undersea Earthquakes Shake up Climate Science

Despite climate change being most obvious to people as unseasonably warm winter days or melting glaciers, as much as 95 percent of the extra heat trapped on Earth by greenhouse gases is held in the world's oceans.

Raids and Bloody Rituals Among Ancient Steppe Nomads

Ancient historiographers described steppe nomads as violent people dedicated to warfare and plundering.

Ancient Human Footprints in Saudi Arabia Give Glimpse of Arabian Ecology 120000 Years Ago

Situated between Africa and Eurasia, the Arabian Peninsula is an important yet understudied region for understanding human evolution across the continents.

Popular stories

The Secret Hellfire Club and the Hellfire Caves

The Hellfire Club was an exclusive membership-based organisation for high-society rakes, that was first founded in London in 1718, by Philip, Duke of Wharton, and several of society's elites.

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.

Did Corn Fuel Cahokia’s Rise?

A new study suggests that corn was the staple subsistence crop that allowed the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia to rise to prominence and flourish for nearly 300 years.