Astronomers Locate “Super Earth” Exoplanet in the Habitable Zone of Its Host Star


In a recent discovery, astronomers have discovered an exoplanet, or super-Earth, four times the size of our planet. The exoplanet called Ross 508 b orbits a red dwarf star called Ross 508. Although the star is located 36.5 light-years away, it is too faint to be seen with the naked eye. Astronomers note that the planet is in the host star’s habitable zone. The results are part of a study titled “Super-Earth Orbit Near the Inner Edge of the Habitable Zone Around M4.5-dwarf Ross 508”.

The study has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan. Planet Ross 508b orbits the star at a distance that provides temperatures conducive to the formation of water on the planet’s surface. This indicates that Ross 508 b is located in the star’s habitable zone.

However, just being in the habitable zone does not mean that a planet will support life. Even Mars lies within the habitable zone of the Sun but is still unable to sustain life. Taking into account the limits of planetary mass, Ross 508 is likely terrestrial or rocky rather than gaseous.

The researchers were able to spot the planet near a faint star using the Subaru Telescope of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) in Hawaii. Since the star is smaller than our Sun, Ross 508 b orbits it every 10.75 days. Furthermore, Ross 508 is significantly faint, thus Ross 508b is 1.4 times exposed to solar radiation that Earth experiences.

Ross 508 accounts for 18 percent of the sun’s mass, making it the faintest and smallest star with an orbiting world detected using radial velocity. The radial velocity method, the wobble method, or the Doppler method is one of the techniques used to find exoplanets.

Techniques used to locate exoplanets are most effective in finding giant worlds such as gaseous planets that orbit a distance that is too hot for liquid water. Locating other types of planets is considered more difficult by astronomers.

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