Astronomers from different universities, including MIT, discovered a new multiplanet system in the galactic neighborhood. It is only 10 parsecs away from Earth (approximately 30-33 light-years). This is the nearest multiplanet network.
The system’s heart is a little, cool M-dwarf star called HD 260655. A discovery has been made by the astronomers that the system has at least 2 terrestrial-sized planets. Because of their narrow orbits, rocky planets are unlikely to support life. They are open to extreme temperatures, making it difficult for liquid water to survive.
Scientists still love the solar system because of its brightness and proximity to the star. This will permit them to observe the characteristics, as well as evidence of atmospheres, of planets.
Michelle Kunimoto, a postdoctoral researcher at MIT’s Kavli Institute of Astrophysics & Space Research, is Michelle Kunimoto. She is one of the most prominent scientists involved in the research. She stated that it is important to determine if the planets have volatile-rich atmospheres. These planets can be used as a test bed for future explorations.
The team was to present their findings on, June 15, at the American Astronomical Society meeting. Pasadena (California). Katharine Hesse, George Ricker and others are part of the MIT team. This team also includes Avi Shriper and Joel Villasenor.
The first to find the new planet system was NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Satellite (TESS). The MIT-led mission was created to search for periodic dips of light that could indicate the passing of a planet.
The mission’s science inspection pipeline quickly took the signals into account and classified them as TESS objects of interest (TOIs). These objects were then identified as possible planets. NASA Ames’ Science Processing Operations Center, (SPOC) also detected the signals. SPOC is the official TESS platform for planet searching. Scientists plan to confirm these planets with different telescopes.
It can take time to find and confirm new planets. The use of archived data significantly reduced the time taken to confirm the existence of new planets for HD 260655.
Two planets were discovered by Kunimoto. These could have been in the vicinity of HD 260655. Shporer checked to make sure that other telescopes had seen the star. It was a fortunate discovery that HD 260655 was discovered during an analysis of stars conducted by HIRES (i.e. The High-Resolution Echelle Spectrometers) is part of the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. Since 1998, HIRES has monitored the star. The data was available to researchers.
CARMENES also conducted an independent study using HD 260655. This instrument is part of the Clear Alto Observatory in Spain. CARMENES members and HIRES members were contacted by the group to help them with their data capabilities.
Shporer says that these conversations can sometimes be very delicate. “Thankfully both teams were able to work together. Human contact was as important in obtaining data as actual observations.
In just six months, two planets were seen in the vicinity of HD 260655.
To check that TESS signals emanating from 2 planets orbiting one another, the researchers examined both CARMENES data and HIRES data. Both surveys measure the star’s gravitational wobble. It is also called its radius velocity.
Kunimoto claims that every planet orbiting the sun will experience a gravity pull. He further states that they are looking for any motion in the star that could suggest that a planetary object of planetary mass is pulling it.
Researchers identified statistically significant signals in both sets of archive data, suggesting that TESS signals came from 2 planets orbiting one another.
The group further studied TESS data to determine the characteristics of the two planets. The orbital times and sizes of both planets were also determined. The inner planet, HD 260655b orbits the star approximately every 2.8 days and is nearly 1.2 times larger than Earth. HD 260655c, the second planet in the outer solar system orbits the star approximately once every 5.7 days. It is 1.5 times larger than Earth.
Researchers used information from CARMENES and HIRES to determine the mass of each planet. This directly relates to the magnitude at which every planet pulls on its stars. The Earth’s inner planet is twice as large as the Earth, while the Earth’s outer planet has three Earth masses. The team calculated every planet’s density based on its mass and size of them. Earth’s smaller inner planet’s density is somewhat lower than Earth’s. The larger outer planet’s density is marginally lower. Based on both planets’ density, they are likely either rock-like or terrestrial.
The scientists determined the surface temperatures of the planets’ inner and outer surfaces based on their short orbits.
Kunimoto states, that they consider the area that isn’t habitable zones too warm for any existence of liquid water on that surface.
Shporer believes that the system could have additional planets. Many multiplanet systems host five to six planets, particularly close to small stars such as this one. We are hopeful that we will discover more. One might be in the habitable zone. This is a positive outlook.