Share

Exoplanet Found Orbiting Distant Sun-like Star

Miriam Kramer
Published: January 16, 2014

This artist's illustration shows one of three newly discovered planets in the star cluster Messier 67. (ESO/L. Calcada)

Scientists using a powerful telescope in Chile have found an alien planet circling a star that is nearly identical to the sun and located in a star cluster 2,500 light-years from Earth.

The discovery marks the first time that scientists have found an exoplanet circling a solar twin in a star cluster, according to European Southern Observatory officials, the group that operates the telescope instrument that made the discovery. Scientists used ESO’s HARPS telescope instrument to find the exoplanet, which is a little smaller than Jupiter and takes seven days to orbit its star. The strange world, along with two other exoplanets also found by the HARPS instrument, are located in Messier 67, a star cluster populated by about 500 stars. 

ESO scientists also created a video explanation of the sunlike-star’s alien planet, as well as the discovery of two other exoplanets that were found in the same study. While exoplanets have been found in star clusters before, this is the first time one has been found circling a sun twin in a cluster. [The Strangest Alien Planets (Gallery)]

“In the Messier 67 star cluster the stars are all about the same age and composition as the sun,” Anna Brucalassi of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, leader of the new study, said in a statement. “This makes it a perfect laboratory to study how many planets form in such a crowded environment, and whether they form mostly around more massive or less massive stars.”

Two other planets were also found orbiting stars in the cluster. By using the HARPS planet-hunting instrument on the 3.6-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, scientists were able to observe 88 stars in Messier 67 over six years to try to find planets orbiting the stars.

In all, the scientists found three planets orbiting three different stars in the cluster. Aside from the solar twin and its planet, the researchers also found another planet one-third the size of Jupiter circling a sunlike star and a planet larger than Jupiter circling a massive red giant star.

Two of the three planets are considered “hot Jupiters“ or planets that are somewhat like Jupiter in size, but orbit closer to their host stars, ESO officials said. All three of the planets are too close to their parent stars for liquid water to exist, ESO officials added.

“These new results show that planets in open star clusters are about as common as they are around isolated stars — but they are not easy to detect,” Luca Pasquini of ESO, co-author of the new study to appear in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, said in a statement. “The new results are in contrast to earlier work that failed to find cluster planets, but agrees with some other more recent observations. We are continuing to observe this cluster to find how stars with and without planets differ in mass and chemical makeup.”

Follow Miriam Kramer @mirikramer and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.

Star Cluster Messier 67 Harbors Planets | Fly-Through Animation

Alien Planet Quiz: Are You an Exoplanet Expert?

Exploring the Southern Sky - ESO at 50 | Video Show

10 Space Discoveries by the European Southern Observatory

Copyright 2014 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

MORE: Nine Incredible Facts About Exoplanets

There are currently 919 confirmed plants orbiting other stars, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, with an additional 3,602 planet candidates waiting to be confirmed. (A few different databases track exoplanets, and by some of those, the count has surpassed 1,000.) (NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)


Featured Blogs

Huge Temperature Swings to Sock the Northeast Ahead of Early-Week Storm

By Dr. Jeff Masters
February 12, 2016

From frigid, near-record lows this weekend to mild, soggy highs on Tuesday, New York and New England are about to experience one of the most dramatic chill-down-to-warm-up sequences in memory. The brief but sharp cold will extend across the eastern U.S., but the most dramatic temperature swings are expected from Washington, D.C., northward. Some locations in New York and New England will rocket from temperatures near or below 0°F on Saturday night--with much lower wind chills--to readings near or above 50°F by Tuesday. The exact track of an early-week winter storm--impossible to pin down at this point--will dictate how a potpourri of heavy rain, sleet, freezing rain, and snow evolve across the eastern U.S.

California: What a Difference a Month Makes

By Christopher C. Burt
January 8, 2016

One month ago I posted a blog about the precipitation deficits that were endemic in California at that time (December 9, 2015) but just prior to the beginning of a series of storms that rolled in. As was expected, the storm door opened and remains open. Here is where California now stands as of January 9th, 2016 precipitation-wise. Looking a lot better!

An extraordinary meteorological event; was one of its results a 1000-year flood?

By Stu Ostro
October 5, 2015

The confluence of meteorological ingredients the first weekend in October 2015 resulted in an extraordinary weather event with severe impacts. Was one of them a 1000-year flood?

Why the Arrest of a Science-Loving 14-year-old Matters

By Shaun Tanner
September 16, 2015

By now, many of you have heard or read about the arrest of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old high school student from Irving, Texas. Ahmed was arrested because school officials called the police after he showed one of his teachers his homemade clock. Mistaken for a bomb, Ahmed was taken into custody, interrogated, shamed, suspended (still on suspension today, Wednesday), and reprimanded. All of this after it has been found that the "device" he brought to school was indeed, a homemade clock.

2013-14 - An Interesting Winter From A to Z

By Tom Niziol
May 15, 2014

It was a very interesting winter across a good part of the nation from the Rockies through the Plains to the Northeast. Let's break down the most significant winter storms on a month by month basis.

What the 5th IPCC Assessment Doesn't Include

By Angela Fritz
September 27, 2013

Melting permafrost has the potential to release an additional 1.5 trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and could increase our global average temperature by 1.5°F in addition to our day-to-day human emissions. However, this effect is not included in the IPCC report issued Friday morning, which means the estimates of how Earth's climate will change are likely on the conservative side.