Tuesday, 7 February 2012

New super-Earth detected within the habitable zone of a nearby cool star

I have been working as part of an international team of scientists that have discovered a potentially habitable super-Earth orbiting a nearby star.

The planet's host star is well-established to have a different makeup from that of our Sun, lacking the metallic elements which are the building blocks of terrestrial planets. This means habitable planets could form in a greater variety of environments than previously believed.

The new planet is expected to absorb about the same amount of energy from its star that the Earth absorbs from the Sun. This would allow surface temperatures similar to Earth and perhaps liquid water. Further study will be necessary to understand what the planet's atmosphere but so far this planet is the best bet to host liquid water.

The planet is located in orbit around a nearby red dwarf star and so will be an excellent target for further study. A landmark of this study is the re-analysis and combination of data from two telescopes in Chile and one in Hawaii. Being able to confirm orbits in this way is a very powerful technique to discover signals that are close to the noise signal of a single instrument.

University of Hertfordshire researchers are developing pioneering Bayesian techniques in order to make further exciting new discoveries in this way.

More information on this story, including a link to the research paper can be found on the University's website.

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