Cosmic Rival? Astronomers Spot Enigmatic System with Three Earth-Size Planets

Indian scientists discover planet 600 light years away from Earth

Scientists, from the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) at Ahmedabad have put India in the elite league of countries who have discovered planets around stars.

One of them is just 160 light years from Earth and includes three planets that are remarkably similar in size to our own. The name of the host star is EPIC 211945201 or K2-236.

Initially, the source was found to be a planetary candidate from NASA K2 (Kepler2) photometry because it was transiting, that is the planet body comes in between the star and the observer on Earth as it goes around the star and therefore it blocks a tiny amount of star-light. The discovery of the new planet was made by calculating the mass of the planet using the indigenously designed "PRL Advance Radial-velocity Abu-sky Search" (PARAS) spectrograph that is integrated with 1.2m Telescope at PRL's Gurushikhar Observatory in Mount Abu, India. The team found the planet to be smaller in size than Saturn and bigger than Neptune. Although the atmospheric temperature of red dwarf stars, around which these planets revolve, is 3,450 and 3,800 K respectively, nearly half the temperature of our Sun. "It's closer to Neptune", he said. Isro said very few such spectrographs exist around the world (mostly in the USA and Europe) that can do such precise measurements.

They estimate that all the planets discovered will have temperatures at least tens of degrees higher than those of the planet Earth due to the strong radiation they receive in their close orbits to their star. The mass of the planet has been estimated to be around 27 times the mass of the Earth whereas its radius is estimated to be 6 times that of the Earth.

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The scientists observed the target over a time 420 days or about 1.5 years.

The team was able to identify a super-Neptune exoplanet, that is a planet bigger than Neptune also known as a sub-Saturn exoplanet.

However, calculations suggest that the heavy elements, ice, silicates, and iron content are 60-70 % of the total mass. "These planets are very unlike those in our own Solar System and understanding them will tell us more about how planetary systems are formed".

According to a report by ISRO, the new planet is a sub-Saturn or super-Neptune sized planet around a Sun-like star, as reported by India Today.

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