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Exoplanet search 15 new alien worlds, and a can of water

An image of an exoplanet with the data in the foreground.

(Tokyo Institute of Technology)

The researchers discovered 15 new planets around cool stars known as red dwarfs, and one of those planets could host liquid water on its surface.

In a new study, the researchers combined the space telescope data with a follow-up ground investigation of eight different red dwarfs, which are faint stars with a weight of 7.5 to 50 percent of the mass of the sun. The team spotted three planets, each slightly larger than the Earth, around the red dwarf star K2-155, located 200 light-years away. The outer planet of the system was a particularly interesting finding, because it had a radius of about 1.6 times that of the Earth, and within this star’s habitable zone, the researchers said. A star’s habitable zone is the region where planets would be at the correct temperature to maintain liquid water.

The team used observations from the NASA Kepler spacecraft second mission, K2, and ground-based telescopes such as the Subaru Telescope on Hawaii and the Nordic Optical Telescope (NOT) in Spain to gather data on the 15 exoplanets, according to a recent statement about the research. To determine whether K2-155 is the outermost planet, K2-155d, water on the surface, the team modeled what is known all over the world in a three-dimensional simulation of the climate.

They find that this exo-planet may have liquid water. But despite the huge opportunities that the researchers remain cautious until further analysis can confirm the initial findings, according to the statement.

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“Red dwarf systems, in particular, coolest red dwarfs are just beginning to be investigated, so they are very exciting targets for future exoplanet research,” said Teruyuki Hirano, a researcher at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and lead author of the new work.

In April 2018, the mission of the NASA Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)is scheduled to start; that spacecraft can provide greater precision of the researchers in search of distant planets with conditions that could support life. “TESS, it is expected that many candidate planets around stars closer to the Earth,” Hirano said. “This is much easier to make follow-up observations, including studies of planetary atmospheres, and determining the precise orbit of the planets.”

The new work is developed Feb. 23 in The Astronomical Journal.

Original article on Space.com.

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