Star system with three Earth-sized planets discovered

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Christened the EPIC 211945201b, the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad not only found a new planet in the deep recesses of space but was also able to measure its mass. ISRO has issued a detailed report on this discovery. It's a super-Neptune or sub-Saturn size, which is of 27X Earth's mass and 6X Earth's radius.

Being that close, you might think that the planets would be unbearably hot but the scientists say that might not be the case.


That solar system, which orbits the star K2-239, is located about 160 lightyears away and can be found inside the constellation Sextans (the Sextant, naturally). Such a high temperature might make it uninhabitable for living creatures.

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. India has joined the elite club of a handful of countries with this discovery of new planets around stars.


Launched in March 2009, Kepler is NASA's flagship spacecraft to map Earth-size planets in the Goldilocks habitable zone of other stars. It has the name EPIC 211945201 (K2-236) and thus, the planet has been given the name EPIC 211945201B (K2-236B). It is seven times closer to the star as compared to the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

The PARAS reads the entire electromagnetic spectrum from microwave to infrared radiation which allows the scientists to read the composition of the planet, surface temperature, and the nature of the atmosphere. This discovery is the first of its type that occurred on the Indian territory, placing the Asian country on the very selective list of the countries that discovered far-distant worlds. PRL scientists, who observed the target for about 1.5 years with the spectrograph, made calculations which suggested that heavy elements like ice, silicates and iron content make 60%-70% of the total mass. "Very few such spectrographs exist around the world (mostly in the US and in the Europe) that can do such precise measurements", the space agency said on its website late on June 8.


Otherwise, the planets are probably inhospitable: they are very close to their star and therefore very warm. And thus, the 1.2m telescope, PARAS, was put to use from the Gurushikhar Observatory in Mount Abu, Rajasthan. The planet's environment is not suitable to support any kind of life forms, however, its size and mass are what holds the importance.

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