Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Trio Of Super-Earths: Harvest Of Low-mass Exoplanets Discovered With HARPS

Date:
June 16, 2008
Source:
European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO)
Summary:
European astronomers have announced a remarkable breakthrough in the field of extra-solar planets. Using the HARPS instrument at the ESO La Silla Observatory, they have found a triple system of super-Earths around the star HD 40307. Moreover, looking at their entire sample studied with HARPS, the astronomers count a total of 45 candidate planets with a mass below 30 Earth masses and an orbital period shorter than 50 days. This implies that one solar-like star out of three harbours such planets.

Artist's impression of the trio of super-Earths discovered by an European team using the HARPS spectrograph on ESO's 3.6-m telescope at La Silla, Chile, after 5 years of monitoring. The three planets, having 4.2, 6.7, and 9.4 times the mass of the Earth, orbit the star HD 40307 with periods of 4.3, 9.6, and 20.4 days, respectively.
Credit: ESO

European astronomers have announced a remarkable breakthrough in the field of extra-solar planets. Using the HARPS instrument at the ESO La Silla Observatory, they have found a triple system of super-Earths around the star HD 40307. Moreover, looking at their entire sample studied with HARPS, the astronomers count a total of 45 candidate planets with a mass below 30 Earth masses and an orbital period shorter than 50 days. This implies that one solar-like star out of three harbours such planets.

"Does every single star harbour planets and, if yes, how many?" wonders planet hunter Michel Mayor from Geneva Observatory. "We may not yet know the answer but we are making huge progress towards it."

Since the discovery in 1995 of a planet around the star 51 Pegasi by Mayor and Didier Queloz, more than 270 exoplanets have been found, mostly around solar-like stars. Most of these planets are giants, such as Jupiter or Saturn, and current statistics show that about 1 out of 14 stars harbours this kind of planet.

"With the advent of much more precise instruments such as the HARPS spectrograph on ESO's 3.6-m telescope at La Silla, we can now discover smaller planets, with masses between 2 and 10 times the Earth's mass," says Stéphane Udry, one of Mayor's colleagues. Such planets are called super-Earths, as they are more massive than the Earth but less massive than Uranus and Neptune (about 15 Earth masses).

The group of astronomers have now discovered a system of three super-Earths around a rather normal star, which is slightly less massive than our Sun, and is located 42 light-years away towards the southern Doradus and Pictor constellations.

"We have made very precise measurements of the velocity of the star HD 40307 over the last five years, which clearly reveal the presence of three planets," says Mayor.

The planets, having 4.2, 6.7, and 9.4 times the mass of the Earth, orbit the star with periods of 4.3, 9.6, and 20.4 days, respectively.

"The perturbations induced by the planets are really tiny - the mass of the smallest planets is one hundred thousand times smaller than that of the star - and only the high sensitivity of HARPS made it possible to detect them," says co-author François Bouchy, from the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, France.

Indeed, each planet induces a motion of the star of only a few metres per second.

At the same conference, the team of astronomers announced the discovery of two other planetary systems, also with the HARPS spectrograph. In one, a super-Earth (7.5 Earth masses) orbits the star HD 181433 in 9.5 days. This star also hosts a Jupiter-like planet with a period close to 3 years. The second system contains a 22 Earth-mass planet having a period of 4 days and a Saturn-like planet with a 3-year period as well.

"Clearly these planets are only the tip of the iceberg," says Mayor. "The analysis of all the stars studied with HARPS shows that about one third of all solar-like stars have either super-Earth or Neptune-like planets with orbital periods shorter than 50 days."

A planet in a tight, short-period orbit is indeed easier to find than one in a wide, long-period orbit.

"It is most probable that there are many other planets present: not only super-Earth and Neptune-like planets with longer periods, but also Earth-like planets that we cannot detect yet. Add to it the Jupiter-like planets already known, and you may well arrive at the conclusion that planets are ubiquitous," concludes Udry.

More information

These discoveries have been announced today at the international conference "Extra-solar Super-Earths" which takes place in Nantes, France, from 16 to 18 June.

Two papers on these discoveries have also been submitted to the research journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

The team is composed of Michel Mayor, Stéphane Udry, Didier Queloz, Christophe Lovis, and Francesco Pepe (Geneva Observatory, Geneva University, Switzerland), François Bouchy (Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, France), Willy Benz and Christophe Mordasini (Physikalisches Institut, Bern University, Switzerland), and Jean-Loup Bertaux (Service d'aéronomie du CNRS, Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin, France).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO). "Trio Of Super-Earths: Harvest Of Low-mass Exoplanets Discovered With HARPS." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080616081723.htm>.
European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO). (2008, June 16). Trio Of Super-Earths: Harvest Of Low-mass Exoplanets Discovered With HARPS. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080616081723.htm
European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO). "Trio Of Super-Earths: Harvest Of Low-mass Exoplanets Discovered With HARPS." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080616081723.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) — The B612 Foundation says asteroids strike Earth much more often than previously thought, and are hoping to build an early warning system. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) — NASA administrator Charles Bolden, speaking at the 'Human to Mars Summit' in Washington, says that learning more about the Red Planet can help answer the 'fundamental question' of 'life beyond Earth'. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) — NASA is inviting all social media users to take a selfie of themselves alongside nature and to post it to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, or Google Plus with the hashtag #globalselfie. NASA's goal is to crowd-source a collection of snapshots of the earth, ground-up, that will be used to create one "unique mosaic of the Blue Marble." This image will be available to all in May. Since this is probably one of the few times posting a selfie to Twitter won't be embarrassing, we suggest you give it a go for a good cause. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 20, 2014) — SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft makes a scheduled Easter Sunday rendezvous with the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins