Citizen scientist just discovered a planet twice the size of earth

James Marshall
January 12, 2019

A research team that included a UChicago graduate student has discovered a planet that is estimated to be twice the size of earth. Known as HD 21749b, it is 53 light years away from the Earth. That new earth is actually located in the habitable zone of the star where it is now being into hopes that there are the instances of life there. It has now raised hopes for containing and sustaining life on a new planet.

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, TESS, has discovered a third small planet outside our solar system, scientists announced this week at the annual American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle. It looks like the newly discovered planet might be rocky. Or it could be a planet which is rich in gas, same as the Neptune of Milky Way Galaxy according to NASA. But it is apparent its magnitude is rare among exoplanets.

Among planets that orbit close to their stars, there's a curious dearth of worlds between about 1.5 and two times Earth's size. Unfortunately, the author's also point out the HD 21749b likely is not an ideal target for future atmospheric follow-ups with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

This system contains a pair of dim, cool M-type stars separated by about 5.1 billion miles (8.2 billion km), roughly six times the distance between Saturn and the Sun.

"We know a lot about atmospheres of hot planets, but because it's very hard to find small planets that orbit farther from their stars and are therefore cooler, we haven't been able to learn much about these smaller, cooler planets", she said.

The discovery came into being when Makennah Bristow and Feinstein, back in 2017 were working together as interns with an astrophysicist named Joshua Schlieder.

"More than a million TESS images were downloaded from MAST in the first few days", said Thomas Barclay, a TESS researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

All data from the Kepler mission is run through an algorithm to locate potential planets, however more manpower was needed to sift through all the possible planet 'transits'. Examining data from the fourth observe drive of Kepler's K2 mission, the team notice two likely planetary transits in the system.

In Kepler's K2 mode, which ran from 2014 to 2018, the spacecraft repositioned itself to point at a new patch of sky at the start of each three-month observing campaign.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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