Scientists find an exoplanet whose strange behavior may lead to the Solar's System hidden ninth planet.
- NASA's Hubble Telescope provides 14 years of data on the exoplanet HD106906 b.
- It exhibits strange behavior along its orbit 336 light-year away from Earth.
- Scientists think data from the exoplanet may explain what happened to the possibly hidden Planet Nine in our Solar System.
The Strange Exoplanet That Resembles the Long-Sought “Planet Nine”<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bc761d317a03c871bdc413cbd93960c1"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/gbz_VRKMrh4?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
This image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, shows one possible orbit (via the dashed ellipse) of the exoplanet HD 106906 b.
Credits: NASA, ESA, M. Nguyen (University of California, Berkeley), R. De Rosa (European Southern Observatory), and P. Kalas (University of California, Berkeley and SETI Institute)
Artist's impression of the possibly hidden "Planet Nine"
Credit: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser
A new study from NASA and the SETI Institute comes up with an exciting number of potentially life-supporting planets.
- A study analyzes data from the Kepler Space Telescope and the European Space Agency's GAIA survey to estimate the number of habitable planets.
- There may be 30 such planets in our own galactic neighborhood.
- The new estimate may help inform future research and missions.
What the study finds<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDY3NTYwNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3ODY0OTg1N30.8Ve8CEVdOQ_9qrZrkpjsFhbeAYbV4fPmFuxTTrICA-8/img.jpg?width=980" id="22627" width="1440" height="900" data-rm-shortcode-id="a21647ab5aba6af56946d37c70977025" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Illustration of Kepler-7
Credit: SETI<p>The team that produced the new report was led by Steve Bryson of NASA's Ames Research Center in California. The authors of the study looked for stars that are similar in size, age, and temperature to our Sun, between 4,527 to 6,027 °C. These stars are <a href="https://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/astronomy/stars/startypes.shtml" target="_blank">either</a> G dwarfs, or slightly smaller and more plentiful K dwarfs. Next, they looked for planets orbiting such stars that ranged in size from 0.5 to 1.5 times the size of Earth on the assumption that they were most likely to be rocky planets like ours.</p><p>A big factor affecting habitability is the ability to support surface water. Earlier estimates of habitable planets have focused primarily on an exoplanet's distance from its sun, the so-called "habitable zone." The new research also takes into consideration the amount of light the planet receives from its sun as a factor in the likelihood of water. The authors of the study supplemented the Kepler data with spectroscopic measurements from the European Space Agency's <a href="https://www.gaia-eso.eu" target="_blank">GAIA</a> survey of a billion stars in the Milky Way.</p><p>The stars can be dim enough that their habitable zones are close, causing any exoplanets there to be tidally locked, which means the same side always faces their sun. This makes the stripping off of their atmospheres more likely. One of the unknowns is the degree to which a planet's atmosphere impacts its ability to retain water, though, and for the current research, the authors presumed that atmosphere has a minimal effect on the likelihood of surface water.</p><p>Taking all this into consideration, the research "estimate with 95% confidence that, on average, the nearest HZ planet around G and K dwarfs is ∼6 pc away, and there are ∼ 4 HZ rocky planets around G and K dwarfs within 10 pc of the Sun." (pc is the abbreviation for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsec" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">parsec</a>.)</p><p>The study offers both a conservative estimate of the number of habitable exoplanets orbiting their stars — 0.37 to 0.60 planets per star — and a more optimistic one: 0.58 to 0.88 per star. More than half of galaxy's suitable stars may have habitable planets.</p>
Refining a search<p>On a basic level, Coughlin notes, the study means "we're one step closer on the long road to finding out if we're alone in the cosmos."</p><p>The research may also prove useful in targeting future study and missions. Says Michelle Kunimoto of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite group at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, "Knowing how common different kinds of planets are is extremely valuable for the design of upcoming exoplanet-finding missions." She adds that "surveys aimed at small, potentially habitable planets around Sun-like stars will depend on results like these to maximize their chance of success."</p>
Astronomers propose new estimate of Earth-like planets in the Milky Way galaxy.
- Astronomers make new analysis based on data from NASA's Kepler space telescope.
- The researchers estimate there may be as many as six billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy alone.
- The scientists looked for planets that would be able to host life.
Legacy of NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b27b42d3a99df7a623c9c90c4eff9301"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_V7J05fK5e0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Planetary Habitability Laboratory has made up some periodic tables of all of the confirmed and suspected exoplanets so far, plus planetary bodies in our own solar system.
Exoplanets are hot right now. In the popularity sense. Thermally, they’re also cold and medium. But ever since the first one was discovered nearly 26 years ago — or 9,457 days as of this writing — we’ve been fascinated by them. Some people are intrigued by the potential any of them may hold for migration from Earth should it become inhabitable. Some wonder if other life on our level could be there. And then there’s their most undeniable value: science. If you’ve been having trouble keeping track of what we’ve found so far, the Planetary Habitability Laboratory (PHL) of the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo has just published its Periodic Table of Exoplanets, which it’ll presumably keep up to date as more of them are found. It’s actually a set of three tables:
Are we alone in the universe? NASA's exploration of TRAPPIST-1 has the potential to answer one of humanity's deepest questions.
When NASA announced the discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 solar system in February 2017, humanity’s collective ears spiked. The system is made up of a dwarf star surrounded by seven "Earth-like" exoplanets at potentially habitable temperatures. If we want to know whether we’re alone in the universe or if we have company, the exploration of this planetary group may get us closer to an answer. Bill Nye explains some key signals NASA’s researchers will be looking for as they focus their intellect, and telescopes, towards this extraordinary next step in our history. Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.
Bill Nye's most recent book is Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.