A new planet four times the size of our own has been seen orbiting a star just 36.5 light-years away.
The exoplanet, called Ross 508 b, was discovered in the so-called habitable zone of a faint red dwarf that rotates every 10.75 days.
That’s much faster than Earth’s 365-day orbit, but the orbit of the star Ross 508 b is much smaller and brighter than our Sun.
Despite being in this “temperate” region – where it’s neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water – experts think it’s not likely to be habitable as we know it.
But based on what is known about the limits of planetary mass, it is likely that the New World was terrestrial or rocky, just like Earth, and not gaseous.
A new planet four times the size of our own has been seen orbiting a star just 36.5 light-years away. Exoplanet Ross 508 b has been discovered in the habitable zone of a faint red dwarf. Pictured is an artist’s impression of the giant Earth orbiting a red dwarf
An international team of astronomers discovered ROS 508b using the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan’s Subaru Telescope in Hawaii.
Described in a paper led by astronomer Hiroki Harakawa, of the Subaru Telescope, it’s the campaign’s first exoplanet.
Ross 508b revolves around a nearby M dwarf star known as Ross 508, which is why it got its name.
Giant planets are planets more massive than our planets, but they are not as massive as Neptune.
While the term refers only to the mass of the planet, experts also use it to describe planets larger than Earth, but smaller than the so-called “mini Neptune.”
“We show that M4.5 dwarf Ross 508 has a significant RV periodicity at 10.75 days with potential aliases at 1099 and 0.913 days,” the researchers said.
“This periodic has no analogues in photometry or indices of stellar activity, but it is well suited to the Kepler orbit due to a new planet, Ross 508 b.”
Ross 508, which has a mass of 18 percent that of our Sun, is one of the smallest and lightest stars in its orbit using radial velocity.
The main technology for finding exoplanets is the transit method, which uses NASA’s TESS telescope to search for exoplanets, as well as Kepler.
An international team of astronomers discovered ROS 508b using the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan’s Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. They found this using the well-known radial velocity technique
It involves an instrument that stares at the stars and looks for the regular dips in light caused by an object orbiting the Earth and the star.
Astronomers then use the transit depth to calculate the mass of the object, so the greater the curve of light, the larger the planet.
A total of 3,858 exoplanets have been confirmed using this method.
But the other technique is radial velocity, which is also known as Doppler or Doppler method.
It can detect “oscillations” in a star due to the gravitational pull of a planet orbiting it.
The vibrations also affect the light coming from the star. When it moves toward Earth, its light appears to shift toward the blue part of the spectrum, and when it moves away, it appears to move toward red.
The new discovery suggests that future radial velocity scans at infrared wavelengths have the potential to detect a large number of exoplanets orbiting faint stars.
“Our findings show that near-infrared scanning of the RV could play an important role in finding a low-mass planet around cold M dwarfs such as Ross 508,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
The research is published in the publications of the Japanese Astronomical Society and is available at: arXiv†
Scientists study the atmosphere of distant exoplanets using huge satellites in space such as Hubble
Distant stars and the planets they orbit often have conditions that we don’t see in our atmosphere.
To understand this new world and its components, scientists must be able to discover the components of the atmosphere.
They often do this with a telescope similar to NASA’s Hubble Telescope.
These massive satellites are scanning the sky and pinning them to exoplanets that NASA thinks might be of interest.
Here the onboard sensors perform various forms of analysis.
Of the most important and useful is absorption spectroscopy.
This form of analysis measures the light emitted by the planet’s atmosphere.
Each gas absorbs a slightly different wavelength of light, and when this happens, a black line appears across the spectrum.
These lines correspond to a very specific molecule, indicating its presence on the planet.
They are often called the Fraunhofer lines, after the German astronomer and physicist who first discovered them in 1814.
By combining all of the different wavelengths of light, scientists can determine all of the chemicals that make up a planet’s atmosphere.
The key is that what is missing provides the clues to know what is there.
It is very important that this is done by space telescopes, as they penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere.
The uptake of chemicals into our atmosphere can distort the sample. That’s why it’s important to study light before it has a chance to reach Earth.
This is often used to search for helium, sodium, and even oxygen in exotic atmospheres.
This diagram shows how light passing from a star and through the atmosphere of an exoplanet produces Fraunhofer lines, which indicate the presence of important compounds such as sodium or helium.
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