NASA Finds Nearest Super Earth

Posted: Jul 31 2015, 8:42am CDT | by , Updated: Jul 31 2015, 9:02am CDT, in News | Latest Science News


NASA finds Nearest Super Earth
This artist's concept shows the silhouette of a rocky planet, dubbed HD 219134b. At 21 light-years away, the planet is the closest outside of our solar system that can be seen crossing, or transiting, its star. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA discovered yet another Exoplanet.

NASA made a huge splash last week with the discovery of Kepler-452B. The exoplanet is the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of star that is like to our sun.

Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, NASA discovered the nearest rocky planet outside our solar system.  Exoplanet HD 219134b is  larger than Earth making it a Super Earth.

HD 219134b orbits too close to its star to sustain life, is a mere 21 light-years away. 

While the planet itself can't be seen directly, even by telescopes, the star it orbits is visible to the naked eye in dark skies in the Cassiopeia constellation, near the North Star.

HD 219134b is also the closest exoplanet to Earth crossing in front of its star, making it perfect for research.

"Transiting exoplanets are worth their weight in gold because they can be extensively characterized," said Michael Werner, the project scientist for the Spitzer mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "This exoplanet will be one of the most studied for decades to come."

The planet was initially discovered using HARPS-North instrument on the Italian 3.6-meter Galileo National Telescope in the Canary Islands.Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Study lead author Ati Motalebi of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland said she believes the planet is the ideal target for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope in 2018.

"Most of the known planets are hundreds of light-years away. This one is practically a next-door neighbor," said astronomer and study co-author Lars A. Buchhave of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

For reference, the closest known planet is GJ674b at 14.8 light-years away; its composition is unknown.

Spitzer discovered that the planet transits its star. Infrared measurements from Spitzer revealed the planet's size, about 1.6 times that of Earth. 

"Thanks to NASA's Kepler mission, we know super-Earths are ubiquitous in our galaxy, but we still know very little about them," said co-author Michael Gillon of the University of Liege in Belgium, lead scientist for the Spitzer detection of the transit. "Now we have a local specimen to study in greater detail. It can be considered a kind of Rosetta Stone for the study of super-Earths."

Further observations with HARPS-North also revealed three more planets in the same star system, farther than HD 219134b. Two are relatively small and not too far from the star.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
Luigi Lugmayr () is the founding chief Editor of I4U News and brings over 15 years experience in the technology field to the ever evolving and exciting world of gadgets. He started I4U News back in 2000 and evolved it into vibrant technology magazine.
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