A surprise announcement was just made today by the University of Oviedo and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) that researchers have discovered two brand new planetary systems, and one of these new systems is reported to contain three planets that are the exact size of Earth.
The scientific team, led by Prof Abhijit Chakraborty of Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, have found a sub-Saturn or super-Neptune size planet (mass of about 27 Earth Mass and size of 6 Earth Radii) around a Sun-like star.
They estimate that all the planets discovered will have temperatures at least tens of degrees higher than those of the planet Earth due to the strong radiation they receive in their close orbits to their star. The team found the planet to be smaller in size than Saturn and bigger than Neptune. The planet takes approximately 19.5 days to go around the star.
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Indigenously designed "PRL Advance Radial-velocity Abu-Sky Search" (PARAS) spectrograph integrated with a 1.2m telescope, was used to measure the mass of the planet, which facilitated the discovery of the planet. Isro said very few such spectrographs exist around the world (mostly in the USA and Europe) that can do such precise measurements.
They spent a year a half at PRL's Gurushikhar Observatory in Mount Abu, India, studying the changes in light coming from the planet's host star, EPIC 211945201 or K2-236, and performing an independent confirmation of its mass.
The scientists observed the target over a time 420 days or about 1.5 years. Ice, silicates and iron content make up 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the total mass.
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That's why the discovery of this super-Neptune planet is of great importance for the Indian astronomers as it is the first exoplanet this country's scientists have ever identified on their own. But it does not necessarily mean that these planets are also habitable or have conditions necessary to support life. This is what they have so far discovered.
According to Phys.org, the important discovery of these new planetary systems was made possible by the K2 mission that was undertaken with the use of NASA's Kepler satellite, with work that began in earnest in November, 2013.
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