Thursday, July 26, 2012

Spitzer Finds Possible Exoplanet Smaller Than Earth

Astronomers believe is an alien world just two-Thirds the size of Earth - one of the Smallest on record. It was Identified by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The exoplanet candidate, Known as UCF-1.01, orbits a star Called GJ 436, Which is located a mere 33 light-years away. Might be UCF-1.01 to the nearest world That is our solar system than our home planet Smaller.
PASADENA, Calif.. - Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope detected Have.
What They Believe is a two-Thirds planet the size of Earth. The exoplanet candidate, Called UCF-1.01, is located a mere 33 light-years away, making it Possibly the world nearest to our solar system is Smaller Than That our home planet.

Exoplanets circle stars beyond our sun. Only a handful Smaller than Earth Have Been found so far. Spitzer has Performed studies on transit exoplanets Known, But is the UCF-1.01 first ever Identified With The space telescope, pointing to a possible role for Spitzer in helping discover Potentially habitable terrestrial-sized worlds.

"We have found strong Evidence for a very small, very hot and very near planet With The help of the Spitzer Space Telescope," said Kevin Stevenson from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Stevenson is lead author of the paper, Which Has Been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal. "Identifying small nearby planets as UCF-1.01 Such may one day lead to Their characterization using future instruments."

The hot, new-planet candidate WAS unexpectedly found in Spitzer observations. Stevenson and colleagues historical Were studying the Neptune-sized exoplanet GJ 436b, Already Known to exist around the red-dwarf star GJ 436. In the Spitzer data, the astronomers Noticed slight dips in the amount of infrared light streaming from the star, separate from the dips Caused by GJ 436b. A review of Spitzer archival data Showed Were the periodic dips, suggesting a second planet orbiting the star might be blocking out a small and fraction of the star's light.

This technique, used by a number of observatories Including NASA's Kepler space telescope, relies on transits to detect exoplanets. The duration of a transit and the small DECREASE in the amount of light registered Reveals basic properties of an exoplanet s, such as size and distance from STI STI star. In UCF-1.01 's case, STI diameter would be Approximately 5.200 miles (8,400 kilometers), or two-Thirds That of Earth. UCF-1.01 would revolve tightly around GJ 436 remove, at seven times the distance About of Earth from the moon, With its "year" lasting only 1.4 Earth days. Given this proximity to STIs star, far closer than the planet Mercury is to our sun, the exoplanet's surface temperature would be more than 1.000 degrees Fahrenheit (almost 600 degrees Celsius).

If the roasted, diminutive planet candidate ever had an atmosphere, it Almost Surely has evaporated. UCF-1.01 might resemble a cratered THEREFORE, mostly geologically dead world like Mercury. Paper co-author Joseph Harrington, ALSO of the University of Central Florida and principal investigator of the research, another Suggested Possibility, That the extreme heat of orbiting so close to GJ 436 has melted the exoplanet's surface.

"The planet Could be Covered in magma events," Harrington said.

In Addition to UCF-1.01, Stevenson and colleagues Noticed historical hints of a third planet, dubbed UCF-1.02, orbiting GJ 436. Spitzer has Observed Evidence of the two new planets Several times each. However, Even The Most Sensitive instruments are: unable to measure exoplanet as small as Masses UCF and UCF-1.01-1.02, Which are Perhaps only one-third the mass of Earth. Knowing the mass is required for confirming a discovery, so the paper authors are cautiously calling onesies Both exoplanet candidates for now.

Approximately 1.800 of the stars IDENTIFIED BY NASA's Kepler space telescope as candidates for planetary systems HAVING, just three are verified to Contain sub-Earth-sized exoplanets. Of These, only one is thought to be exoplanet Smaller than the Spitzer candidates, With A radius similar to Mars, or 57 percent Clot That of Earth.

"I hope future observations will confirm These exciting results, Spitzer may be Which show Able to discover exoplanets as small as Mars," said Michael Werner, Spitzer project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.. "Even after nine years in space Almost, Spitzer's observations continue to take us in new directions and Important scientific."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., Manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science Operations are Conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive at the Infrared Processing HOUSED and Analysis Center at Caltech. Manages Caltech JPL for NASA.

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