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Unlocking the mysteries of super Earths

8 February 2018 Astronomy Now

Three planets orbiting a star 100 light years away may serve as a test bed of sorts to shed light on the dividing line between rocky super Earths and sub-Neptune “gassy” planets with the full range represented in a single solar system.

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Potentially habitable super-Earth K2-3d observed transiting parent star

28 November 2016 Astronomy Now

A group of researchers has observed the first ground-based transit observation of K2-3d — a potentially Earth-like extrasolar planet supposedly within the habitable zone around a bright M-dwarf host star 147 light-years away — using the multi-band imager MuSCAT on the Okayama Astrophysical Observatory’s 1.88-metre telescope.

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Newborn giant exoplanet found orbiting close to its parent star

20 June 2016 Astronomy Now

A team of astronomers has confirmed the existence of a young planet known as K2-33b, only 11 million years old, that orbits very close to its star (at 0.05 astronomical units), with an orbital period of 5.4 days. Approximately five times the size of the Earth, the new planet is a “super-Neptune” and the youngest such planet known.

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Searching for distant and wandering worlds

10 April 2016 Astronomy Now

In a global exoplanet observation experiment, NASA’s Kepler K2 mission and Earth-based observatories on six continents hope to survey millions of stars toward the centre of our Milky Way galaxy. Using a technique called gravitational microlensing, scientists will hunt for exoplanets that orbit far from their host star and for free-floating exoplanets that wander between the stars.

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White dwarf “Death Star” seen destroying a planet

21 October 2015 Astronomy Now

The Death Star of the movie Star Wars may be fictional, but planetary destruction is real. Astronomers announced today that they have spotted a large, rocky object disintegrating in its death spiral around a distant white dwarf star. The discovery also confirms a long-standing theory behind the source of white dwarf “pollution” by metals.