Scientists Discover Exoplanet 5 Times the Earth’s Mass
A group of scientists has discovered an exoplanet five times the mass of the Earth and is orbiting around a red dwarf star.
Using data from the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) and HARPS-N instruments, researchers have found an exoplanet candidate orbiting around an M-class red dwarf star called GJ 536, which is located about 32.7 light years from Earth, Universe Today reports.
According to the scientists, the newly detected exoplanet is a super-Earth, a class of exoplanet that has between more than one, but less than 15, times the mass of the Earth.
"GJ 536 b is a small super Earth discovered in a very nearby star. It is part of the group of the smallest planets with measured mass," Alejandro Suárez Mascareño from the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) who led the research team, told Universe Today.
Mascareño said that, while the planet is not located in the habitable zone of its star, its relatively close orbit and the star's brightness could make it a promising target for transmission spectroscopy if the transit can be detected.
"With a star so bright (V 9.7) it would be possible to obtain good quality spectra during the hypothetical transit to try to detect elements in the atmosphere of the planet. We are already designing a campaign for next year, but I guess we won't be the only ones," Mascareño added.
Data about the planet came from the HARPS and HARPS-N instruments mounted on ESO's 3.6-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile and the 3.6-meter telescope at the La Palma Observatory in Spain. The data were combined with photometric data from the All Sky Automated Survey (ASAS).
The researchers detected the planet through radial velocity measurements from the star. Spectroscopic observations of the star were also taken over an 8.6 year period. Apart from detecting the planet, the researchers also found that it has a rotational period of about 44 days and a magnetic cycle that lasts less than three years.
According to the scientists, the discovery is only the first of a long line of exoplanets being discovered around M-class red dwarf stars. The team will continue observing GJ 536 to find gas giants or Earth-like planets.