Two Super-Earths Located Just 111 Light-Years From Earth

Two Super-Earths Located Just 111 Light-Years From Earth

In 2015, another research team discovered the planet K2-18b and noted that it lies with the habitable zone. Unlike its neighbor, the newly discovered exoplanet is situated much closer to its star, likely putting it just outside the habitable zone, and as a result, likely doesn't possess liquid water on its surface.

Cloutier collaborated with an global team of researchers, including his supervisor U of T Scarborough Associate Professor Kristen Menou, and from the Observatoire Astronomique de l'Université de Genève, the Institute for research on exoplanets (iREx), Université de Grenoble and Universidade do Porto.

Their findings - detailed this week in the journal Astrophysics and Astronomy - proved the exoplanet is a scaled-up Earth, not a scaled-down Neptune.

Both exoplanets orbit K2-18 (also known as EPIC 201912552), a red dwarf star located approximately 111 light-years away in the constellation Leo.

Experts discovered the distant exoplanet - known as K2-18b - is a flawless candidate for hosting other life and is made out of rock like Earth.

The new study, by researchers at the University of Texas, Scarborough, and University of Montreal, Canada, was carried out using data from the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Radial velocities can reveal slight wobbles caused by the pull of an exoplanet's gravity on its host star.

On top of that, the radial velocity measurements discovered by HARPS allowed researchers to calculate planets' mass, enabling them to measure their bulk density, and thus whether they are gaseous, rocky, whether they contain water, etc.

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They're clearly more interested in K2-18b, with researchers saying the planet will be a prime target for Nasa's James Webb Space telescope, which will launch in 2019.

Just last month, space boffins said they had found another "Super Earth".

"With the current data, we can't distinguish between those two possibilities", said Cloutier. James Webb Space Telescope is created to observe some of the most distant events and object in the cosmos in the most exceptional clarity.

JWST is NASA's successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and is now scheduled to be launched in spring 2019. According to study authors, the discovery sheds important light on the prevalence of multi-planet systems around dwarf stars like K2-18.

In addition to a signal occurring every 39 days from the rotation of K2-18, and one taking place every 33 days from the orbit of K2-18b, they noticed a different signal occurring every 9 days.

"When we first threw the data on the table we were trying to figure out what it was". That means it is likely too hot for liquid water to exist on its surface, but its mass is likely similar to that of Earth. "If you can get the mass and radius, you can measure the bulk density of the planet and that can tell you what the bulk of the planet is made of", Phys.org quoted Cloutier as saying.

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