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




Subscribe free to our newsletters via your




















EXO WORLDS
Potentially Habitable Super-Earth is a Prime Target for Atmospheric Study
by Staff Writers
Boston MA (SPX) Apr 20, 2017


An artist's impression of the newly-discovered rocky exoplanet, LHS 1140b. This planet is located in the liquid water habitable zone surrounding its host star, a small, faint red star named LHS 1140. The planet weighs about 6.6 times the mass of Earth and is shown passing in front of LHS 1140. Depicted in blue is the atmosphere the planet may have retained. Image courtesy M. Weiss/CfA.

The study of alien worlds is entering its next phase as astronomers amass the best planets outside our Solar System to look for signs of life. A newly discovered "super-Earth" orbiting in the habitable zone of a nearby small star, has catapulted itself to the top of that list.

"This is the most exciting exoplanet I've seen in the past decade," said lead author Jason Dittmann of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). "We could hardly hope for a better target to perform one of the biggest quests in science - searching for evidence of life beyond Earth."

The newfound planet is described in a paper appearing in the April 20th issue of the journal Nature.

Located just 40 light-years away, the planet was found using the transit method, in which a star dims as a planet crosses in front of it as seen from Earth. By measuring how much light this planet blocks, the team determined that it is about 11,000 miles in diameter, or about 40 percent larger than Earth.

The researchers have also weighed the planet to be 6.6 times the mass of Earth, showing that it is dense and likely has a rocky composition. Small, potentially habitable planets have been found in the TRAPPIST-1 system, located a similar distance from Earth, but only one of those worlds has had its density measured accurately, showing that it isn't rocky. Therefore, some or all of the others also might not be rocky.

Since this planet transits its star, unlike the closest world to the solar system Proxima Centauri b, it can be examined for the presence of air. As the planet moves in front of the star, the star's light will be filtered through any atmosphere and leave an imprint. Large, next-generation telescopes will be needed to tease out these subtle signals.

"This planet will be an excellent target for the James Webb Space Telescope when it launches in 2018, and I'm especially excited about studying it with the ground-based Giant Magellan Telescope, which is under construction," said co-author David Charbonneau of the CfA.

The planet orbits a tiny, faint star known as LHS 1140, which is only one-fifth the size of the Sun. Since the star is so dim and cool, its habitable zone (the distance at which a planet might be warm enough to hold liquid water) is very close. This planet, designated LHS 1140 b, orbits its star every 25 days. At that distance, it receives about half as much sunlight from its star as Earth.

Although the planet is potentially habitable now, it might have faced a hellish past. When the star was young, it would have bathed the planet in a harsh ultraviolet glare that could have stripped any water from the atmosphere, leading to a runaway greenhouse effect like we see on Venus.

However, since the planet is larger than Earth, it might have possessed a magma ocean on its surface for millions of years. Powered by heat from naturally radioactive elements, that churning ocean of lava may have fed steam into the atmosphere long after the star calmed to its current, steady glow. This process could have replenished the planet with water, making it suitable for life as we know it.

"Right now we're just making educated guesses about the content of this planet's atmosphere," said Dittmann. "Future observations might enable us to detect the atmosphere of a potentially habitable planet for the first time. We plan to search for water, and ultimately molecular oxygen."

In contrast with the TRAPPIST-1 star, LHS 1140 spins slowly and does not emit much high-energy radiation, which also may help the likelihood of life on its planet.

LHS 1140 b was discovered using the MEarth-South telescope array at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. This collection of eight telescopes, with its companion facility MEarth-North, studies faint, red stars known as M dwarfs to locate orbiting planets using the transit method.

In follow-up work the team was able to detect LHS 1140 wobbling as the planet orbits it, using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) installed on the European Southern Observatory's 3.6m telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile. This information was combined with data from the transit method, allowing the team to make good measurements of the planet's size, mass and density.

The MEarth Project is supported by the National Science Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the John Templeton Foundation.

EXO WORLDS
Distantly related fish find same evolutionary solution to dark water
Washington DC (SPX) Apr 13, 2017
Changes in a single color-vision gene demonstrate convergent evolutionary adaptations in widely separated species and across vastly different time scales, according to a study publishing on April 11 in the open access journal PLOS Biology by David Marques of the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and colleagues. The study, which combined genetic analysis with a 19-year-long selectio ... read more

Related Links
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth

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

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

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

EXO WORLDS
Orbital ATK launches cargo to space station

Russian, American two-man crew reaches ISS

Soyuz-FG rocket to be installed at Baikonur on April 17

NASA Engages the Next Generation with HUNCH

EXO WORLDS
45th SW supports Atlas V OA-7 launch

Russia and US woo Brazil, hope to use advantageous base for space launches

Creation of carrier rocket for Baiterek Space Complex to cost Russia $500Mln

Dream Chaser to use Europe's next-generation docking system

EXO WORLDS
Mars spacecraft's first missions face delays, NASA says

France, Japan aim to land probe on Mars moon

Mars Rover Opportunity Leaves 'Tribulation'

NASA's MAVEN reveals Mars has metal in its atmosphere

EXO WORLDS
Ticking Boxes with Tianzhou

China launches first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1

Tianzhou-1 space truck soars into orbit

Yuanwang fleet to carry out 19 space tracking tasks in 2017

EXO WORLDS
Airbus and Intelsat team up for more capacity

Commercial Space Operators To Canada: "We're Here, and We can Help"

Antenna Innovation Benefits the Government Customer

Ukraine in talks with ESA to become member

EXO WORLDS
Computers create recipe for two new magnetic materials

4-D printing gets simpler and faster

Space debris problem getting worse, say scientists

France's Melenchon returns with campaigning hologram

EXO WORLDS
Evidence for Habitable Region Within Saturn's Moon Enceladus

The earliest animals were marine jellies

Distantly related fish find same evolutionary solution to dark water

Potentially Habitable Super-Earth is a Prime Target for Atmospheric Study

EXO WORLDS
ALMA investigates 'DeeDee,' a distant, dim member of our solar system

Nap Time for New Horizons

Hubble spots auroras on Uranus

Cold' Great Spot discovered on Jupiter




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






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - 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. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. 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