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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A New Exoplanet


Almost forty light years - or 240 trillion miles -  from Earth, scientists have discovered a new planet: LHS 1140b.

An international team of astronomers in Chile recently discovered this rocky exoplanet. Approximately 6.6 times the mass of Earth, LHS 1140b has a very dense iron core, scientists hypothesize. It is close enough to Earth for scientists to view with the next generation of telescopes. The dwarf star that the planet circles is close enough to not only have water, but also to sustain life. These two criteria - distance from Earth for telescopes and the amount of starlight received for water - are obstacles that are not found in a lot of planets. Astronomers have found 20 planets around Earth's size that might support liquid water, but LHS 1140b stands out because of its proximity to Earth.

Already, astronomers are able to conclude that the conditions are very stable on this planet, without high energy flares and a milder climate.

MEarth-South Telescope in Chile
With new telescopes, both already in use and of the near future, scientists will be able to learn more about planet's conditions. With telescopes in Chile, the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere can be detected. In 2018, NASA will launch James Webb Space Telescope, which will be able to detect the presence of ozone. In 2025, the The Giant Magellan Telescope will be able to discover even more. Understanding the atmosphere of new planets can reveal a lot about the planet, because with a thick enough atmosphere, winds can distribute the heat and make the exoplanet livable.

What do you think about this new planet?

Post by Swathi P., Homework Assistant

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