Explainer: Indian scientists discover exoplanet 600 light years from Earth

Jun 12, 2018, 03:01
Explainer: Indian scientists discover exoplanet 600 light years from Earth

The team was led by Abhijit Chakraborty from the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has a detailed report on how the scientists made the breakthrough.

The gravitational pull caused by a planet on its host star makes it wobble around their common center of mass, which can be measured using high resolution spectrographs such as the PARAS.

Importantly, this discovery could help scientists understand how these types of planets form so close to their host star. With this, India joins the elite club of countries that have discovered planets.

Launched in March 2009, Kepler is NASA's flagship spacecraft to map Earth-size planets in the Goldilocks habitable zone of other stars.

The name of the host star is EPIC 211945201 or K2-236.

According to the definition, these are the planets which orbit a star outside the solar system.

The surface temperature of the planet was found to be around 600 degrees Celsius and was found to be seven times nearer to its star, in comparison with Earth-sun distance.

ISRO website states that the 1.2 m InfraRed Telescope at Mount Abu is the first major facility in India that is specifically designed for ground-based infrared observations of celestial objects. Therefore, an independent measurement of the mass of the body was necessary for the discovery, which was made by the PARAS spectrograph.

The atmospheric temperatures around red stars are 3,450 and 3,800 K respectively.

Using that data, PRL scientists who've been observing the planet for over a year now, claim that ice, iron and other heavy elements account for 60-70% of the planet's mass.

There are only a handful of nations that have the capability to explore regions so far away, let alone discover entirely new planets. Very few such spectrographs exist around the world (mostly in the U.S. and in the Europe) that can do such precise measurements. As this system is reported to feature three rocky planets that are the same size as Earth, astronomers are taking notice.

Otherwise, the planets are probably inhospitable: they are very close to their star and therefore very warm.

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