Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter


×
This planet is located in the liquid water habitable zone surrounding its host star, named LHS 1140. Credit: M. Weiss/CfA VOA

April 19, 2017: The hits, they just keep coming!

News was made in February when astronomers found seven potential earth-like planets orbiting the red dwarf star Trappist-1.


Wednesday, another red dwarf star is making headlines with the announcement of a ‘super earth’ found orbiting around the small red star LHS 1140.

Super Earth?


Artist’s impression of the super-Earth exoplanet LHS 1140b. Credit: ESO/spaceengine.org

VOA spoke with Jason Dittmann, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, about the find.

He is the lead author of the paper laying out the new findings, which is being published Thursday in the journal Nature.

NewsGram brings to you current foreign news from all over the world.

He calls the planet a “Super Earth,” not because it’s any better than our blue-green sphere, but because it “is somewhere between the size of the Earth (the largest rocky planet in the Solar System) and Neptune. These planets are actually pretty common, but we don’t have any of them in our own Solar System so we don’t know much about them.”

Finding one is a big deal in general. But this one, dubbed LHS 1140b, is extra-special because it has turned up in the dwarf star’s habitable zone, that area in space where liquid water can exist on the surface.

The planet is 10 times closer to the star than Earth is to the sun, but red dwarfs are much smaller and much cooler than the giant inferno that keeps us warm.

The other special thing about this planet is that it’s about 5 billion years old, and according to Dittmann, “Five billion years should be more than enough time for life to develop [if it’s easy to develop, no one knows!] So this is definitely a good thing.”

Too close for comfort

In general, one big problem with the habitable planets scientists have found around red dwarfs — and this goes for a few of the seven they’ve found on Trappist-1 — and Proxima b, another found last year — is that they are so close to their star that the stellar radiation that is bombarding the planets can literally strip away any atmosphere.

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

And this may be the case here.

But LHS 1140, according to team member Nicola Astudillo-Defru, “spins more slowly and emits less high-energy radiation than other similar low-mass stars.” That’s good news because the planet is so old and so big that chances are decent that it’s managed to hold onto an atmosphere.

Another bit of good news is that terrestrial planet LHS 1140b as seen from earth passes almost directly in front of its star, and that makes it a lot easier to do follow up research that Dittmann and his colleagues are already planning.
“We’re definitely already applying for as much telescope time as we can get our hands on,” Dittmann says, “to start looking at this planet’s atmosphere. And when the next generation of telescopes come online [The James Webb Space Telescope, and the ground-based Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) and European-Extremely Large Telescope (EELT) ], we’ll be in a great spot to find out what sorts of atmospheres planets around M dwarfs have.”

The Webb telescope is expected to launch next year, but the Giant Magellan telescope won’t be online until 2025, and the EELT won’t be working until 2024.

Check out NewsGram for latest international news updates.

That’s a long time to wait, and undoubtedly there’ll be a long list of planets to explore by then. But the hope is that by studying the atmosphere of all these planets in the habitable zone, we might find some of the biological signatures of living things. Two of the European members of the team, Xavier Delfosse and Xavier Bonfils say that it’s the best candidate so far.

“The LHS 1140 system might prove to be an even more important target for the future characterization of planets in the habitable zone than Proxima b or TRAPPIST-1. This has been a remarkable year for exoplanet discoveries!” wrote Delfosse and Bonfils.

And there certainly will be more on the way. (VOA)


Popular

Wikimedia

Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal are scheduled to reach Hotel Six Senses Fort Barwara located at Chauth Ka Barwara, by 9 p.m. on Monday.

Final preparations are in full swing at Six Senses Fort Barwara which will host the much talked about wedding of celebrity couple Vicky Kaushal and Katrina Kaif.

According to sources, the event company working for this wedding has procured crystal balls and chandeliers from abroad to give a royal look to the wedding. These will be installed in the hotel soon.

Keep Reading Show less
Unsplash

Meta-owned WhatsApp on Monday announced an incubator programme in India.

Meta-owned WhatsApp on Monday announced an incubator programme in India that will select 10 organisations and help them build digital solutions to tackle critical health issues.

Called the WhatsApp Incubator Programme (WIP), the initiative aims to facilitate positive and measurable health outcomes at scale by leveraging the WhatsApp Business Platform.

Keep Reading Show less
Unsplash

India has to define its stand and negotiate its international policy keeping in view the nation's best interests of the long run.

By D.C. Pathak

Advent of Biden Presidency with its resonating calls of 'America is back', 'we will repair our alliances' and 'will engage with the world once again' on one hand and the rise of President Xi Jinping with a stronger hold on China after the Plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of CPC, on the other, have got strategic analysts to examine if a new Cold War was already on the horizon.

Keep reading... Show less