Friday, 03 July, 2020


Super-earths discovered orbiting nearby red dwarf #113625

Multiplanetary system near red dwarf Gliese 887 Artist's impression of the multiplanetary system of newly discovered super Earths orbiting nearby red dwarf Gliese 887
Kristine Garrett | 27 June, 2020, 23:51

The team of astronomers monitored the red dwarf, using the HARPS spectrograph at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, and then combined that data with data from the Anglo-Australian Planet Search (using the 3.9m Anglo-Australian Telescope near Coonabarabran), the Planet finder Spectrograph (on Cerro Las Campanas in Chile) and the HIRES instrument on the Keck telescopes on Maunakea, Hawaii.

While the Gilese 887 star is 11 light-years away, it is still one of the closest to our Solar System.

An worldwide team of astronomers has detected super-Earths orbiting a nearby star just 11 lightyears away.

Super-Earths are planets with a larger mass than the Earth, but substantially smaller mass than that of our local ice giants, Uranus and Neptune. And both of them are close to the habitable zone of the star, a place where terrestrial planets can support liquid water on their surfaces.

Using a technique known as the Doppler wobble, they measured the tiny back and forth motion of Gliese 887 due to the gravitational pull of its planets. One of the planets completes an orbit in just 9.3 days, while the other takes 21.8 days to complete a full trip. That suggests the planets are moving very quickly around their star, faster even than Mercury.

Dr John Barnes, an astrophysicist at the Open University and one of the authors on the study published in the journal Science, said: 'Close orbiting planets like these have a high chance of being tidally locked to their host star'. The team estimates the surface temperature of the outer planet (Gliese 887c) to be around 70C.

"For the planets orbiting GJ 887, half of the planets would be in perpetual daytime and the other half in perpetual night time".

But the third potential planet, which could also be a super-Earth, could exist in the star's habitable zone.

The researchers also detected an unconfirmed signal, raising hopes of a third planet with a more "temperate" orbit, but they are "cautious" about the finding. The first is that the red dwarf has very few starspots, unlike our Sun. This means that the newly discovered planets may retain their atmospheres, or have thicker atmospheres than the Earth, and potentially host life, even though GJ887 receives more light than the Earth.

Red Dwarfs are the smallest and coolest variety of stars in the broad range of stars found in the universe and are of very low mass.

Together with the fact that Gliese 887 is quite close to our Sun, this system provides an excellent opportunity for more studies, especially with the James Webb Telescope set to be launched in 2021.

The unusually quiet nature of Gliese 887 suggests that if it does possess a planet within its habitable zone, that world might have a greater chance at life than other red dwarf planets, which often erupt with risky flares.

Another interesting discovery that the scientists made was that Gliese 887's brightness is almost constant.

An artist's impression of the multiplanetary system of super-Earths orbiting the nearby red dwarf star Lacaille 9352.

Previously, the Red Dots team found other exoplanets close to our sun, like the planets orbiting Proxima Centauri and Barnard's star.

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