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Discovery of a Uranus-Sized Planet near the Snow-Line

21 Jul 2014, 10:00 UTC
Discovery of a Uranus-Sized Planet near the Snow-Line
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“In future, children won’t perceive the stars as mere twinkling points of light: they’ll learn that each is a ‘Sun’, orbited by planets fully as interesting as those in our Solar System.”- Martin ReesA protoplanetary disk is a circumstellar disk of material around a young star in which the formation of planets occurs. The snow-line marks the distance from the central star where the protoplanetary disk becomes cool enough for volatiles such as water to condense into solid ice grains. By analysing publicly available data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, Kipping et al. (2014) present the discovery of a cold transiting planet near the snow-line. This planet, identified as Kepler-421b, is the first of its kind to be discovered. It is similar in size to Uranus and it circles a star that is slightly cooler than the Sun in a nearly-circular orbit with an orbital period of 704.2 days. Kepler-421b is the longest period transiting planet discovered to date.Figure 1: Artist’s impression of a Uranus-like planet with a large moon in orbit around it.Figure 2: Transit light curve of Kepler-421b. Based on how much light it blocks when it passes in front its parent star, Kepler-421b is estimated to be ...

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