Published: Mon, June 11, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

Scientists have discovered a new planet similar to Earth

Scientists have discovered a new planet similar to Earth

The second red dwarf star that was detected with a new planetary system is K2-240, and this particular star features two large planets that are double the size of Earth.

With this discovery, India is now among the league of countries that have discovered planets around stars.

The star the planets orbit is located in the constellation of the Sextant at 50 parsecs from the Sun - that means it's about 160 light years away. The name of the host star is EPIC 211945201 or K2-236. The report said it was Nasa's K2 (Kepler2) photometry that found that the source was a planetary candidate as it was transiting, where the planet body comes between the star and the Earth.

The indigenously designed spectrograph named PRL Advance Radial-velocity Abu-Sky Search (PARAS) integrated with a 1.2-metre telescope at PRL's Gurushikar Observatory in Mount Abu aided the researchers in finding the exoplanet. It goes around the star in about 19.5 days. It's a super-Neptune or sub-Saturn size, which is of 27X Earth's mass and 6X Earth's radius. It is closer to Neptune, he added. These researchers estimate that all planets discovered will have temperatures superficial tens of degrees higher than those of the planet Earth due to the strong radiation they receive in these close orbits to their stars.

On the other hand, only a few such accurate and powerful spectrographs exist around the world, the majority of which being in the USA and Europe. The PRL scientists observed the target for around 420 days for probing the nature of the system using the PARAS spectrograph.

Asked for his view, Jayant Murthy, senior professor of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru, said Dr. Chakraborty's group is the only one in the country doing this important work and has spent several years in developing the facility.

Going forward, the researchers plan to use the upcoming James Webb space telescope to investigate what the atmosphere of these new planets is like, which could give us a big clue as to whether or not they'd be able to support life. This is what they have so far discovered.

Scientists have claimed that the discovery will help in the understanding of the formation mechanism of super-Neptune or sub-Saturn kind of planets that are too close to the host star.

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