60 New Planets Discovered Including Super-Earth, Many Are Earth-Like And Can Support Life

A team of scientists that worked on the Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey discovered 60 new planets along with 54 potential planets outside of our solar system. According to scientists who were a part of the project, many of the newfound exoplanets are Earth-like and can support life.

An artist’s impression of the exoplanet HD 219134b Image Courtesy Of: NASA/JPL

The survey was led by Steve Vogt and Geoffrey Marcy, astronomers at the University of California, along with Paul Butler from the Carnegie Institute of Science’s Paul Butler at Washington. The results were published in The Astrophysical Journal.

One of the newly discovered planets is called Gliese 411-b. The planet is a hot “super-Earth” with a rocky surface, orbiting the fourth nearest star system to our own. The Gliese 411-b hints that all the stars close to our sun have planetary systems, instead orbiting the center of our galaxy alone. The planets orbiting those stars might be like Earth, hosting life-supporting conditions on their surfaces.

The team tracked 1,600 stars during the course of more than 20 years. During the time astronomers made around 60,000 observations, mostly using the Keck-I telescope located in Hawaii.

Butler said that “This paper and data release is one of my crowning achievements as an astronomer and represents a good chunk of my life’s work.” The study should help in the future exoplanet hunting projects, according to the researchers.

The survey measured periodic changes in the colors of target stars that indicated the existence of planets. In other words, the team used the iodine cell radial velocity technique, monitoring the signatures of planets by using iodine lines as a reference point that stays static with lines of the star responding to the planets that are orbiting.

The Keck-I telescope proved as an able exoplanet hunter. Dr. Mikko Tuomi, one of the researchers involved in the study stated that “These new discoveries will further help us characterize the population of planets in the immediate solar neighborhood.”

The Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey was hugely successful, and with the data collected during its course, future exoplanet hunters should find new planets easier than before.