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60 New Planets, Including a 'Super Earth,' Just Discovered

Image: 60 New Planets, Including a 'Super Earth,' Just Discovered

Artist's conception shows inner four planets of the Gliese 581 system. (Lynette Cook/NASA)

By Clyde Hughes   |   Wednesday, 15 Feb 2017 07:59 AM

60 new planets orbiting stars close to our solar system have just been discovered by astronomers, including one that scientists are referring to as a "Super Earth."

The findings resulted from observations at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii as part of the Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey, said the United Kingdom's University of Hertfordshire. The research team made 61,000 individual observations of 1,600 stars.

Among the findings, astronomers located Gliese 411b, which is believed to be a hot super-Earth-like planet in the fourth closest star system to our Sun. Researchers said the findings demonstrate that nearly all of the nearest stars to our Sun have planets orbiting them.

The Super Earth, also known as Lalande 21185, has a short orbital period of under 10 days, so it is not exactly like Earth, said the Carnegie Institute of Science, which took part in the study.

"It is fascinating to think that when we look at the nearest stars, all of them appear to have planets orbiting them," said Mikko Tuomi of the University of Hertfordshire.

"This is something astronomers were not convinced about, even as little as five years ago. These new planets also help us better understand the formation processes of planetary systems and provide interesting targets for future efforts to image the planets directly."

Tuomi and his international team of astronomers also found evidence of another 54 planets, bringing the potential discovery of new worlds to 114.

"The work of this team and their willingness to share data and techniques unveils a world of new possibilities, vastly increasing the ability of astronomers everywhere to perform in-depth studies of these exoplanet systems," said Hilton Lewis, director of the Keck Observatory.

A paper detailing the research was published in a recent edition of The Astronomical Journal.

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60 new planets orbiting stars close to our solar system have just been discovered by astronomers, including one that scientists are referring to as a "Super Earth."
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2017-59-15
 

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