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Beyond Earthly Skies

Trio of Super-Earths Circling a Nearby Star

17 Jan 2015, 10:00 UTC
Trio of Super-Earths Circling a Nearby Star
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Following the failure of two of its four reaction wheels in May 2013, NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope was ingeniously repurposed for a new mission plan named K2. On 18 December 2014, it was announced that the K2 mission had detected its first confirmed exoplanet, a super-Earth or mini-Neptune designated HIP 116454 b (Vanderburg et al. 2014). The detection of HIP 116454 b was based on data collected during the testing run to prepare the space telescope for the nominal K2 mission.Using data from the K2 mission covering 30 May to 21 August 2014, Crosseld et al. (2015) report the discovery of three super-Earths orbiting a nearby M dwarf star slightly larger than half the size of the Sun. This M dwarf star is designated EPIC 201367065 and it lies at a relatively nearby distance of about 150 light years. The three planets are 2.1, 1.7 and 1.5 times the size of Earth, and take 10.1, 24.6 and 44.6 days to circle the host star, respectively. From their sizes, the planets appear to span the range between rock-dominated “Earths/super-Earths” and lower-density “mini-Neptunes” with substantial volatile content.Figure 1: Artist’s impression of a rocky planet.Figure 2: Transit light curves of the three ...

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