An international group of astronomers have discovered what they’re called a “super-Earth” and it’s not too far from our own solar system.
In addition to the “super-Earth” the team, including Dr Mikko Tuomi from the University of Hertfordshire, have found a total of 114 new planets with 60 being discovered in our “immediate Solar neighbourhood”.
Called Gliese 411b, this hot rocky planet has been located in the fourth-closest star system to our own Sun making it practically a neighbour.
The astronomers believe Gliese 411b is incredibly significant because it demonstrates that, “virtually all the nearest stars to the Sun have planets orbiting them. Planets that could be like Earth.”
Dr Tuomi, from the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Astrophysics Research, said: ‘It is fascinating to think that when we look at the nearest stars, all of them appear to have planets orbiting them.”
“This is something astronomers were not convinced about, even as little as five years ago.”
These new discoveries have happened thanks to the Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey, an initiative to make years of observations publicly available.
With over 20 years of observations and thousands of stars to sift through these planets are for many, the culmination of a lifetime’s work.
The Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey began in 1996 by astronomers Steve Vogt and Geoffrey Marcy from the University of California and Paul Butler, from the Carnegie Institute of Science, in Washington.
Dr Butler said: ‘This paper and data release is one of my crowning achievements as an Astronomer. It represents a good chunk of my life’s work.’
How they discover these planets is in many ways as impressive as the planets themselves.
The group were able to measure the tiniest changes in the colour of the target star. The tiny variations then reveal the existence of an orbiting planet.
Incredible Astronomy Photographs