In a major breakthrough, scientists have discovered 15 new exoplanets orbiting small, cool star near our solar system. Out of the 15 new planets found, researchers are most interested to know about ‘super-Earth’, which could likely harbour liquid water, and potential alien life.
According to the team of researchers from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, red dwarfs are of interest for studies of planetary formation and evolution.
“Red dwarf systems, especially coolest red dwarfs, are just beginning to be investigated, so they are very exciting targets for future exoplanet research,” said lead researcher Teruyuki Hirano.
Located around 200 light years away from Earth, K2-155 is one of the brightest red dwarfs. It has three transiting super-Earths which are a bit bigger than the Earth. The researchers pointed out that of the three super-Earths, K2-155d, which is the outermost planet, has a radius 1.6 times that of Earth and could be within the host star’s habitable zone.
The research team found that K2-155d could potentially have liquid water on its surface based on three-dimensional global climate simulations. In order to reach a final conclusion, the team sifted through data from NASA Kepler spacecraft’s second mission, K2. They also followed up observations using ground-based telescopes, including the Nordic Optical Telescope (NOT) in Spain and the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii.
The researchers explained that in order to explore if K2-155d is habitable or not, they will need to find out a more precise estimate of the radius and temperature of the K2-155 star. So, they will have to conduct further studies using interferometric techniques.
The research team also investigated the relationship between planet radius and metallicity of the host star.
Hirano noted that huge planets are only discovered around metal-rich stars. Some planets with a radius about three times that of Earth were found orbiting the most metal-rich red dwarfs. He is hopeful that with the scheduled launch of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in April 2018, they will be able to discover even more planets.