Exoplanets Current Affairs

K2-229b: Hot, metallic Earth-sized planet discovered

Scientists using Kepler 2 telescope have discovered hot, metallic, Earth-sized planet named K2-229b orbiting dwarf star located 260 million light years away. They had employed Doppler spectroscopy technique also known as ‘wobble method‘ to discover and characterise this faraway planet.

K2-229b

K2-229b planet is almost 20% larger than Earth but has mass which is over two-and-a-half times greater. It is located very close to its host star (0.012 AU, around a hundredth of the distance between Earth and Sun), which itself is medium-sized active K dwarf in Virgo Constellation.

K2-229b orbits its star every fourteen hours. Its day side temperature reaches over 2000 degrees Celsius. Scientists calculated size, position and mass of K2-229b by measuring radial velocity of star and finding out starlight ‘wobbles’ during orbit, due to gravitational tug from planet, which changes depending on planet’s size.

K2-229b has same high density that of Mercury-like planets. It is also innermost planet in system of at least three planets, though all three orbit much closer to their star than Mercury.

Significance

The dense, metallic nature of K2-229b has numerous potential origins. The one hypothesis is that its atmosphere might have been eroded by intense stellar wind and flares, as it is so close to its star. Another possibility is that K2-229b was formed after huge impact between two giant astronomical bodies in space billions of years ago – much like theory that Moon was formed after Earth collided with body size of Mars. K2-229b is similar to Mercury, knowing more about it can potentially give more clues of formation our planets in our own solar system.

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TESS: NASA, SpaceX collaborate to search for exoplanets

NASA has partnered with private space launching company SpaceX to launch Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to search for exoplanets using the transit method.

TESS is designed to carry out first spaceborne all-sky transiting exoplanet survey. It is equipped with four wide-angle telescopes and associated charge-coupled device (CCD) detectors. It is planned to be launched in April 2018 on board of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

The primary mission objective of TESS is to survey brightest stars near Earth for transiting exoplanets over two-year period. It will use array of wide-field cameras to perform all-sky survey. It will create catalog of thousands of exoplanet candidates using transit photometry method.

It will provide prime targets for further characterization by James Webb Space Telescope, as well as other large ground-based and space-based telescopes of the future. With TESS, it will be possible to study mass, size, density and orbit of large cohort of small planets, including sample of rocky worlds in habitable zones (goldilocks zone) of their host stars. This will reveal whether planets are rocky (like Earth), gas or jovian giants (like Jupiter) or something even more unusual.

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