Antonio Manaytay – Fourth Estate Contributor
Toronto, Canada (4E) – A new research had revealed that the less known exoplanet around a red dwarf star some 111 light years away is not only much larger than the Earth but it has also an identical neighbor.
The study, to be published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, said that exoplanet K2-18b is not alone based on the data from the European Southern Observatory.
“Being able to measure the mass and density of K2-18b was tremendous, but to discover a new exoplanet was lucky and equally exciting,” study lead author Ryan Cloutier said. He is a post-graduate student at the Centre for Planet Science of the University of Toronto Scarborough.
The Earth-like planet was discovered in 2015 orbiting around a red dwarf star in the constellation Leo. Found orbiting in the star’s Goldilocks zone, it is more likely that it has a liquid surface. Scientists believed it is capable of nurturing life with its Earth-like conditions.
The scientists had discovered that the exoplanet is a scaled-up version of the Earth by measuring its mass aided by the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) using ESO’s 3.6 meters telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile.
The HARPS had also helped Cloutier and his colleagues to discover that K2-18b has a neighbor.
After getting the mass and radius of the exoplanet, it enabled the scientists to measure its density which could determine “what the bulk of the planet is made of.”
Cloutier said the Earth-like planet could be one of two possibilities: a mostly rocky planet with a gaseous atmosphere or a planet with an icy vast ocean in it.
“With the current data, we can’t distinguish between those two possibilities,” he said, adding that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), set to be launched in 2019, can greatly help probing the atmosphere to “see whether it has an extensive atmosphere or it’s a planet covered with water.”
“There’s a lot of demand to use this telescope, so you have to be meticulous in choosing which exoplanets to look at,” study co-author Rene Doyon said.
“K2-18b is now one of the best targets for atmospheric study,” Doyon, who is also the principal investigator for the Canadian Space Agency’s NIRISS on board the JWST, said.
While analyzing the data of k2-18b Cloutier had noticed a signal occurring every 39 days from the rotation of the red dwarf star K2-18. He also noticed a signal occurring every 33 days from K2-18b’s orbit, and a different signal taking place every nine days.
After ruling out that the signal was not just a noise, Cloutier said they are pretty sure that the signal belongs to another planet orbiting around K2-18, which is closer to the host star but its mass is similar to Earth.
“It wasn’t a eureka moment because we still had to go through a checklist of things to do in order to verify the data,” he said.
Article – All Rights Reserved.
Provided by FeedSyndicate