With a world leader in the field of detection of extrasolar planets, the telescope HARPS, the astronomers have discovered more than 50 new exoplanets, including 16 super-Earths, one of which orbit passes on the edge of the habitable zone of its star. By analyzing the properties of all discovered by HARPS planets, the team found that about 40% of stars similar to the Sun, there is at least one planet lighter Saturn.
HARPS spectrograph on the 3.6-meter telescope at the Observatory La Silla Observatory, Chile, is the most successful means of discovering new planets. Team HARPS, which is headed by Michael Meyor (University of Geneva, Switzerland), announced today the discovery of 50 new planets orbiting nearby stars are, including 16 super-Earths (whose weight is more earthy, but less than that of the gas giants). This is the largest number of such planets ever found in one study. The findings were presented at the conference Extreme Solar Systems, in Wyoming, USA, which brought together 350 experts on extrasolar planets.
"The number of open HARPS planets exceeded the wildest expectations, and among them there are a lot of super-Earths and Neptune-type planets that orbit stars, closely resembling our sun. And that’s not all - of this study showed that the rate of discovery is getting higher," - Meyor said.
Thanks to monitor the 376 stars like the Sun, astronomers much more accurately calculated the probability that these stars have planets are present with low birth weight (rather than gas giants). They estimate that in approximately 40% of such stars have at least one planet smaller than Saturn’s mass. The lion’s share of extrasolar planets with a mass of Neptune are in systems with two or more planets.
With the updated hardware and software, the stability and sensitivity of HARPS overlook the increasingly high level, which allows more than ever to effectively search planets where life could exist.
One recently discovered planets, HD 85512 b, by weight of 3.6 times greater than the earth and is located on the edge of the habitable area which is a narrow band around the star, where water may be in liquid state.
Improved precision HARPS can detect the mass of the planet is less than two Earth masses.
"Over the next ten to twenty years, we will make up the first list of potentially habitable planets located close to the Sun. This list will be important in future experiments to search for signs of life in the spectrographic atmosphere of exoplanets" - concluded Michael Meyor who discovered the first exoplanet in 1995.