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New Superearth Discovered -- Is It Habitable?

Nov 18, 2016 04:00 AM EST
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A "superearth" type planet, GJ 536 b, has been discovered by a team of international researchers, Eurekalert reported.

According to Universe Today, the European researchers, composed of Alejandro Suárez Mascareño from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and the University of La Laguna (ULL), Rafael Rebolo and Jonay Isaí González Hernández, his thesis directors at the IAC, used data from the ESO's High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) and HARPS-N instruments and detected GJ 536 b which was dound orbiting around GJ 536 - an M-class red dwarf star located about 32.7 light years (10.03 parsecs) from Earth.

Superearth is an extrasolar planet with a mass higher than Earth's, but lower than the mass of the Solar System's ice giants. GJ 536 b's mass is around 5.4 Earth masses.

It is not in the habitable zone, but its relatively close orbit -- 8.7 days --- and the brightness of its star makes it a potential target for atmospheric composition investigation. The researchers also found that the star itself has a rotational period of about 44 days and magnetic cycle that lasts less than three years, Phys.org reported.

"So far the only planet we have found is GJ 536 b but we are continuing to monitor the star to see if we can find other companions," Mascareño, who is the first author on the article, in a press release.

"Rocky planets are usually found in groups," he explains, "especially round stars of this type, and we are pretty sure that we can find other low mass planets (other "superearths") on orbits further from the star, with periods from 100 days up to a few years. We are preparing as programme of monitoring for transits of this new exoplanet to determine its radius and mean density."

The study has been accepted for publication in the specialized journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

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