Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .




EXO WORLDS
NASA's Spitzer Confirms Closest Rocky Exoplanet
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 01, 2015


This artist's rendition shows one possible appearance for the planet HD 219134b, the nearest confirmed rocky exoplanet found to date outside our solar system. Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech .

Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have confirmed the discovery of the nearest rocky planet outside our solar system, larger than Earth and a potential gold mine of science data. Dubbed HD 219134b, this exoplanet, which orbits too close to its star to sustain life, is a mere 21 light-years away.

While the planet itself can't be seen directly, even by telescopes, the star it orbits is visible to the naked eye in dark skies in the Cassiopeia constellation, near the North Star. HD 219134b is also the closest exoplanet to Earth to be detected transiting, or crossing in front of, its star and, therefore, perfect for extensive research.

"Transiting exoplanets are worth their weight in gold because they can be extensively characterized," said Michael Werner, the project scientist for the Spitzer mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "This exoplanet will be one of the most studied for decades to come."

The planet, initially discovered using the HARPS-North instrument on the Italian 3.6-meter Galileo National Telescope in the Canary Islands, is the subject of a study accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Study lead author Ati Motalebi of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland said she believes the planet is the ideal target for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope in 2018.

"Webb and future large, ground-based observatories are sure to point at it and examine it in detail," Motalebi said.

Only a small fraction of exoplanets can be detected transiting their stars due to their relative orientation to Earth. When the orientation is just right, the planet's orbit places it between its star and Earth, dimming the detectable light of its star. It's this dimming of the star that is actually captured by observatories such as Spitzer and can reveal not only the size of the planet but also clues about its composition.

"Most of the known planets are hundreds of light-years away. This one is practically a next-door neighbor," said astronomer and study co-author Lars A. Buchhave of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For reference, the closest known planet is GJ674b at 14.8 light-years away; its composition is unknown.

HD 219134b was first sighted by the HARPS-North instrument and a method called the radial velocity technique, in which a planet's mass and orbit can be measured by the tug it exerts on its host star. The planet was determined to have a mass 4.5 times that of Earth, and a speedy three-day orbit around its star.

Spitzer followed up on the finding, discovering the planet transits its star. Infrared measurements from Spitzer revealed the planet's size, about 1.6 times that of Earth. Combining the size and mass gives it a density of 3.5 ounces per cubic inch (six grams per cubic centimeter) - confirming HD 219134b is a rocky planet.

Now that astronomers know HD 219134b transits its star, scientists will be scrambling to observe it from the ground and space. The goal is to tease chemical information out of the dimming starlight as the planet passes before it. If the planet has an atmosphere, chemicals in it can imprint patterns in the observed starlight.

Rocky planets such as this one, with bigger-than-Earth proportions, belong to a growing class of planets termed super-Earths.

"Thanks to NASA's Kepler mission, we know super-Earths are ubiquitous in our galaxy, but we still know very little about them," said co-author Michael Gillon of the University of Liege in Belgium, lead scientist for the Spitzer detection of the transit. "Now we have a local specimen to study in greater detail. It can be considered a kind of Rosetta Stone for the study of super-Earths."

Further observations with HARPS-North also revealed three more planets in the same star system, farther than HD 219134b. Two are relatively small and not too far from the star. Small, tightly packed multi-planet systems are completely different from our own solar system, but, like super-Earths, are being found in increasing numbers.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

.


Related Links
Spitzer Space Telescope
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





EXO WORLDS
Pulsar Punches Hole In Stellar Disk
Boston MA (SPX) Jul 27, 2015
A fast-moving pulsar appears to have punched a hole in a disk of gas around its companion star and launched a fragment of the disk outward at a speed of about 4 million miles per hour. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is tracking this cosmic clump, which appears to be picking up speed as it moves out. The double star system PSR B1259-63/LS 2883 - or B1259 for short - contains a star about ... read more


EXO WORLDS
NASA Could Return Humans to the Moon by 2021

Smithsonian embraces crowdfunding to preserve lunar spacesuit

NASA Sets Sights on Robot-Built Moon Colony

Technique may reveal the age of moon rocks during spaceflight

EXO WORLDS
NASA Mars Orbiter Preparing for Mars Lander's 2016 Arrival

New Website Gathering Public Input on NASA Mars Images

Antarctic Offers Insights Into Life on Mars

Earth and Mars Could Share A Life History

EXO WORLDS
Japanese firm to mature whisky in space

Start-ups in spotlight at new Hong Kong tech meet

Third spaceflight for astronaut Paolo Nespoli

Solar weather reports key to safe space travel

EXO WORLDS
Chinese earth station is for exclusively scientific and civilian purposes

Cooperation in satellite technology put Belgium, China to forefront

China set to bolster space, polar security

China's super "eye" to speed up space rendezvous

EXO WORLDS
Space Kombucha in the search for life and its origin

Political Tensions Have No Impact on Space Cooperation- Roscosmos

RED epic dragon camera captures riveting images on space station

Launch, docking returns ISS crew to full strength

EXO WORLDS
Payload fit-check for next Ariane 5 mission

SMC goes "2-for-2" on weather delayed launch

China tests new carrier rocket

Arianespace inaugurates new fueling facility for Soyuz upper stage

EXO WORLDS
Microlensing used to find distant Uranus-sized planet

NASA's Spitzer Confirms Closest Rocky Exoplanet

Finding Another Earth

Kepler Mission Discovers Bigger, Older Cousin to Earth

EXO WORLDS
Cages offer new direction in sustainable catalyst design

Controlling phase changes in solids

Researchers predict material with record-setting melting point

World's most powerful laser fired in Japan




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.