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A Jupiter-size Planet in the Habitable Zone

5 Oct 2013, 10:00 UTC
A Jupiter-size Planet in the Habitable Zone
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Ji Wang et al. (2013) report on the discovery of PH2 b, a Jupiter-size planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star catalogued as KIC 12735740. This discovery was made by the Planet Hunters project whereby human volunteers visually inspect the light curves collected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope to identify planetary transit signals which may be missed by computer programs.Four transits of KIC 12735740 were detected by Planet Hunters. By noting the interval between 2 successive transits, the orbital period of PH2 b is 282.5 days. The best-fit model for the transit light curves suggests that PH2 b is a Jupiter-size planet with a radius of 10.12 ± 0.56 Earth radii. In addition, the temperature at the top of the planet’s atmosphere is estimated to be 281 ± 7 K. This places PH2 b within the habitable zone of its host star as defined by Batalha et al. (2012), where the temperature range defining the habitable zone is between 185 K and 303 K. Of course, PH2 b is unlikely to be habitable since it is a gas giant planet like Jupiter. Nevertheless, Ji Wang, a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University and lead author of the paper ...

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