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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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A planet is forming in an Earth-like orbit around a young star

2 April 2016 Astronomy Now

Discs of dust and gas that surround young stars are the formation sites of planets. New images from the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) reveal never-before-seen details in the planet-forming disc around a nearby Sun-like star, including a tantalising gap at the same distance from the star as the Earth is from the Sun.

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Map of rocky exoplanet reveals a lava world

31 March 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers, led by the University of Cambridge, has obtained the most detailed ‘fingerprint’ of a rocky planet outside our solar system to date, and found a planet of two halves: one that is almost completely molten, and the other which is almost completely solid. Exoplanet 55 Cancri e lies 40 light-years from the Sun.

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First detection of a super-Earth exoplanet’s atmosphere

17 February 2016 Astronomy Now

For the first time astronomers were able to analyse the atmosphere of a super-Earth exoplanet. Using data gathered with the Hubble Space Telescope and new analysis techniques, the exoplanet 55 Cancri e some 40 light-years away is revealed to have an atmosphere consists mainly of hydrogen and helium without any indications of water vapour.

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Potentially habitable super-Earth found just 14 light-years away

18 December 2015 Astronomy Now

Australian astronomers from the University of New South Wales have discovered the closest potentially habitable planet found outside our solar system so far, orbiting a star just 14 light-years away. The planet, more than four times the mass of the Earth, is one of three that the team detected around a red dwarf star called Wolf 1061.

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The closest rocky, transiting exoplanet found in Cassiopeia

31 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Northern Hemisphere astronomers are familiar with the W-shaped star pattern of Cassiopeia, a circumpolar constellation near the Pole Star that never sets for latitudes north of 35°. Tucked next to one leg of the W lies a modest 5th-magnitude star named HD 219134 that has been hiding a secret.

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First evidence of volcanic activity on a super-Earth?

5 May 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have detected wildly changing temperatures on a super-Earth — the first time any atmospheric variability has been observed on a rocky planet outside the Solar System — and believe it could be due to huge amounts of volcanic activity, further adding to the mystery of what had been nicknamed the ‘diamond planet.’

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NASA’s Kepler spacecraft proves it can still find planets

19 December 2014 Astronomy Now

When the primary mission of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft ended in May 2013 due to a failure of its stabilisation system, a team of scientists and engineers developed an ingenious strategy to control the spacecraft. The resulting second mission, K2, has a newfound planet — HIP 116454b

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Ground-based detection of super-Earth transit

1 December 2014 Astronomy Now

A team of astronomers has measured the passing of a super-Earth in front of a bright, nearby Sun-like star using a ground-based telescope for the first time. Exoplanet 55 Cancri e, some 40 light-years away, is about twice as big and eight times as massive as the Earth.