Astronomers spot a trio of Earth-sized planets orbiting a distant star

Mindy Sparks
June 11, 2018

The discovery was made by the astronomy team headed by Professor Abhijit Chakraborty of PRL.

Artistic simulation of a planetary system composed by three rocky planets wiht the same size of the Earth. It's a super-Neptune or sub-Saturn size, which is of 27X Earth's mass and 6X Earth's radius.

The exoplanet is reported to be smaller than Saturn but bigger than Neptune. "It is closer to Neptune", he said, pointing out that the new planet had 27 times the mass of Earth and six times its radius.

The three Earth-sized planets all have quite short orbits around their sun, with the longest orbit of one of the planets being completed in just 10.1 days.

While the planet is orbiting a Sun-like star, it's also roughly more than seven times closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun, which means the temperature could be around 600 degrees Celsius and likely too hot and dry to support life. Such a high temperature might make it uninhabitable for living creatures.

The planet has been discovered using an indigenous spectrograph known as PRL Advance Radial Velocity Abu-sky Search or PARAS along with a 1.2m Telescope.

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. Scientists have named the host star as EPIC 211945201 or K2-236 and the planet as EPIC 211945201b or K2-236b.

The quest to find life beyond Earth has led to the discovery of two new planetary systems. The PRL scientists observed the target over a time-baseline of 420 days (in about 1.5 years) using the PARAS spectrograph for probing the nature of the system. This discovery is the first of its type that occurred on the Indian territory, placing the Asian country on the very selective list of the countries that discovered far-distant worlds.

Dr. Murthy said, "The work done by Dr. Chakraborty and his collaborators is important in characterising the nature of the exoplanet and they were able to show that the candidate is a close to Saturn-size planet orbiting near its star".

Also published on Medium.

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