Sunday 21 December 2014

Detection of Super-Earth Transit Extends Terrestrial Frontier

Astronomers have been searching for signs of life in other alien planets in the universe far from our Earth. One of the latest development which has got added as an encouragement is the observation of a super-earth, which is passing right in front of a star which resembles the sun. This observation was made through a ground-based telescope.

According to Ernst de Mooij, who is the lead author of Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, their observations clearly indicate that we can easily detect any kind of transit of the small planets around any Sun-like stars by using the ground-based telescopes. This detection was made on the island of La Palma, Spain. The Nordic Optical Telescope was used by the international research team to make this observation.

What is exoplanet? 

An exoplanet is kind of planet, which doesn’tt orbit the Sun and instead of this it orbits a different star. Till now it is expected that there are more than 1800 exoplanets are in outer space. In outer space there are also rogue planets that don’t orbit any star and they tend to be considered separately as gas giants.
What is the super earth?

According to the research team, the host star, which is called as the “55 Cancri”, is situated just about 40 light years away from earth and is very much visible to the naked eye. The transit of the exoplanet, currently called as the “55 Cancri e” is the shallowest, which has been spotted from a ground-based observatory. During the observation, it was spotted that the exoplanet crosses “55 Cancri” during its transit has the ability to block a small fraction of the starlight. This clearly indicates that the planet could be easily twice the size of the earth and may be about 16,000 miles in diameter.

How is this discovery important? 

This discovery or observation of the research team is very vital especially for the upcoming space missions like PLATO and TESS. It is important because there is the possibility of finding many small planets all around the bright stars. TESS- It is a NASA mission, which is scheduled to be launched in 2017 and PLATO- This is scheduled to be launched in 2024 by the European Space Agency.

Both these missions are important, as they will be searching for transiting terrestrial planets around the close by bright stars. According to Mercedes Lopez-Morales, co-author of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, astronomers are slowly making way in the direction of detecting bio-signatures in Earth-like planets in the region of close by stars.

All these findings are available in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. Those who are not aware, this observation were made by 2 astronomers. The observation will encourage the astronomers towards the remote sensing of the exoplanets in the future. This also encourages them to search for habitable planets apart from Earth. It gives out a possibility that the life could be possible on another planet just like the Earth.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.