Home LATEST NEWS A super-Earth orbiting its star smaller than the Sun

A super-Earth orbiting its star smaller than the Sun


Discovered by astrophysicist Hiroki Harakawa and his colleagues at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, the planet named Ross 508 b is located about 36.5 million light years from our own.

Its estimated mass, about four times greater than that of the Earth, suggests that it would be rocky rather than gaseous.

The star it orbits is a faint red dwarf about five times smaller and less massive than the Sun.

The Japanese team brought it to light using the IRD (infrared Doppler) instrument installed on the Subaru telescope, located on the Mauna Kea volcanic shield, on the island of Hawaii. This spectrometer specializes in detecting exoplanets around red dwarf stars that emit most of their energy in the infrared.

Ross 508 b was detected indirectly using the radial velocity technique which has discovered more than 18% of exoplanets confirmed to date. This method involves observing the Doppler-Fizeau effect, a slight recoil, in the spectrum of the star around which a planet orbits.

Scientists now want to determine if Ross 508 b has an atmosphere.

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Ross 508 b orbits its star Ross 508 completely in 10.77 days and is at a distance of only 8 million kilometers. It would thus be at the inner limit of the living area around the planet.

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The concept of habitable zone, that is to say the distance between a planet and its star, is considered to be the central element in the capacity of a planet to maintain on its surface elements essential to the appearance of life as we know it, including liquid water.

In our solar system, Venus orbits near the inner border of the habitable zone, and Mars near the outer border. Other factors can influence the expansion or contraction of this zone.

More than 5000 exoplanets discovered

Last March, the official NASA census passed the threshold of 5,000 exoplanets detected.

As of June 7, no less than 5035 have been officially detected in more than 3775 planetary systems.

More than 9017 additional exoplanets are currently awaiting confirmation.

The official NASA archives only record exoplanet discoveries that are the subject of peer-reviewed scientific articles and whose existence has been confirmed by multiple detection methods or analytical techniques.

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Other observation techniques

The transit technique is by far the one that has confirmed the presence of the majority of them (76.6%) to date. It consists of detecting a drop in the luminosity of a star when an object passes in front of it.

The gravitational microlensing technique accounts for 2.6% of discoveries. This effect occurs when a star’s gravitational field distorts spacetime, which deflects light from a distant star behind it, like a lens.

Direct observation, which is extremely difficult, allowed 1.2% of sightings. Because they are small and dim, planets are easily lost in the glare of the bright giant stars around which they orbit. However, thanks to current telescopes, there are special circumstances in which a planet can be observed directly. Three Quebecers also participated in the creation of the first direct image of exoplanets. They had received the title of Scientist of the Year 2008 from TurnedNews.com for their achievement.

The detail of this discovery is the subject of an article published in the review of theAstronomical Society of Japan (New window).

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