Astronomers spot a trio of Earth-sized planets orbiting a distant star


Indian researchers at Physics Research Laboratory (PRL), for the first time, have succeeded in detecting a planet revolving around a star.

The Indian team from the PRL employed their "PRL Advance Radial-velocity Abu-sky Search" (PARAS) spectrograph with which they measured the mass of the new exoplanet.

The planet is 27 times the mass of Earth and has six times the radius, while being located over 600 light years away. It is closer to Neptune, he added. Even more, the scientists calculated that the planet completes a full orbit around its star in only about 20 Earth days.

Researchers at the PRL believes that the discovery of such planets will help them to study the formation of sub-Neptune or sub-Saturn like planets.

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With this discovery, India has joined the elite club of a handful of countries which have discovered planets around stars, ISRO said. K2-239 has a compact system, and three of its planets have a similar size to Earth, which orbit that star once every 7.8 and 10.1 days. That means that, despite the incredibly close proximity of the three exoplanets to their host star, the surface temperature of the Earth-sized worlds may only be "tens of degrees higher", according to the scientists. The total mass of these elements was calculated at about 60 to 70 percent of planet EPIC's total mass. By measuring the amplitude of the wobbling of the host star, the mass of the planet was found to be about 27 times the mass of Earth.

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

That's why the discovery of this super-Neptune planet is of great importance for the Indian astronomers as it is the first exoplanet this country's scientists have ever identified on their own. These type of spectrographs exist mostly in the U.S. and in the Europe that can do such precise measurements. These are also called "extrasolar planets". And thus, the 1.2m telescope, PARAS, was put to use from the Gurushikhar Observatory in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.

Dr. Murthy said, "The work done by Dr. Chakraborty and his collaborators is important in characterising the nature of the exoplanet and they were able to show that the candidate is a close to Saturn-size planet orbiting near its star".