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Posted on July 9th, 2019

Out of this World – Exoplanets Aplenty

Potentially habitable planets are popping up everywhere. Our perception of how many of these planets exist has changed drastically with the increasing number comparable in size with Earth and in the habitable zone of their stars.

The most recent discovery of habitable planets was in the constellation Aries, around an M-type red dwarf called Teegarden’s Star about 12 light-years from Earth. Two planets, believed to be similar in size and composition to Earth, are orbiting at break-neck speed around a small, cool star. The planet closest to the star, dubbed Teegarden’s star b, completes an orbit around the star in 4.9 days while Teegarden’s star c completes on orbit in 11.4 days.

Planets are usually detected using the transit method where by researchers observe stars over time, looking for dips in the stars’ brightness. Large stars with bigger planets are easier to detect using this method. Smaller stars, like Teegarden’s Star is 9 percent of the Sun’s mass. It took over 200 observations over three years to determine that the two planets exist.

The ‘Calar Alto high–Resolution search for M dwarfs with Exoearths with Near-infrared and optical Échelle Spectrographs’ (CARMENES) instrument was responsible for the new discovery. The project is looking for similar planets around 342 small stars.

Another find by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has researchers dreaming of the state fair. Two planets orbiting a young star have the density of cotton candy. These planets belong to a class of exoplanets called the super-puffs. It’s believed that these worlds have an expanded atmosphere that stretches far from their surface.

The first planet, Kepler-51b’s mass is twice the size of Earth yet its radius is seven times larger. It orbits its star every 45 days. Kepler-51d is 7.5 times the mass and ten times the size of Earth and takes 130 days to orbit. These poofy planets are probably young planets orbiting their young star. As the star pulls the planets closer, the material condenses and some of it is stripped away by stellar winds. Over the next 5 billion years the planets will shrink to resemble Neptune, losing their cotton candy qualities.

Katie Nelson
Geospatial Ninja
(303) 718-7163

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