Discovered a "super-Earth" - the densest planet


07/05/2011

Canadian small telescope discovered "super-Earth" which excited the astronomical community. The planet, dubbed "55 Cancri e", is the densest solid planet known, and makes a turn around its parent star in about 18 hours. This information was reported international team of astronomers.

The planet is uninhabitable, because its surface temperature reaches 2,700 degrees Celsius. Despite the high temperatures, according to astronomers, the planet has atmosphere, thanks to the strong gravity.

"It’s very exotic, you can compare it to the rocky super-Earth" - said a member of the team made the discovery, Jamie Matthews.

This planet is close to the Earth - its star can be seen with the naked eye. According to the researchers, 55 Cancri e is "a unique laboratory for the study of the history of formation and evolution of planets."

The team used an inexpensive Canadian space telescope to observe this exoplanet and determine its orbit, mass and size.

Suitcase-sized telescope, called MOST (born Microvariability and Oscillations of STars), was launched by the Canadian Space Agency in 2003 to study 10 stars. This mission was planned for one year.

But nearly eight years later, MOST still functions well and has already made the monitoring of more than 2000 stars.

"Small but precious spool" - said Matthews, who called costing $ 10 million telescope "small but effective".

Hunters for planets already discovered more than 500 extrasolar planets, but, according to Matthews and his colleagues, 55 Cancri e is distinguished by its close proximity to the Earth and density.

"A fair people enjoy the opportunity to look at with the naked eye star and know the mass and radius of one of its planets," - said the team leader Josh Winn of MIT.

55 Cancri e is a planetary system consisting of four planets that have been studied by scientists United States since 1997. They used the technique of measuring the oscillation star caused by the gravitational influence of the planets are invisible to us.

Last year, Rebekah Dawson of Harvard University and Daniel Factories of the University of California, suggested that orbit 55 Cancri e could be measured not by days, as previously thought, and a clock.

They teamed up with astronomers at MIT, Harvard and UBC to make observations for the home star of the planet using MOST, which for two weeks in February constantly watching her.

Space Telescope has discovered a small decrease in brightness of the star, in those moments when the planet was between us and the star.

"These ’transitions’ occur every 17 hours and 41 minutes," - said a team.

The information collected by MOST, allowed us to determine that the diameter of the planet only 60 percent more than the Earth, but it is 8 times as massive.

"In fact, 55 Cancri e - is the densest solid planet known to us," - said a team. Their discovery will be published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

According to the team, the planet is too small to even see it with a telescope, but its native star 55 Cancri A, can be seen with the naked eye for the next two months.

Original: Canada


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