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Indian lab discovers large exoplanet around a Sun-like star

11 June 2018

A team of scientists led by Abhijit Chakraborty of Ahmedabad-based Physical Research Laboratory has discovered a new planet. Hence the planet will be known as EPIC 211945201b or K2-236b.

The found planet is reportedly a sub-Saturn or super-Neptune-sized planet which has a radius six times that of earth, ISRO stated in its announcement on Friday. Its surface is around 600 degree Celsius and is very close to the host star.

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The exoplanet is reported to be smaller than Saturn but bigger than Neptune. Its mass is about 27 times Earth's and six times that of Earth at radius. This is the first of its kind spectrograph in the country, which can measure the mass of a planet moving around a star. It revolves around a Sun-like star in 19.5 days, 600 light yrs away.

Indigenously designed "PRL Advance Radial-velocity Abu-Sky Search" (PARAS) spectrograph integrated with a 1.2m telescope, was used to measure the mass of the planet, which facilitated the discovery of the planet. "Very few such spectrographs exist around the world (mostly in the United States of America and in the Europe) that can do such precise measurements", the space agency said on its website late on June 8. PRL scientists, who observed the target for about 1.5 years with the spectrograph, made calculations which suggested that heavy elements like ice, silicates and iron content make 60%-70% of the total mass.

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Researchers at the PRL believes that the discovery of such planets will help them to study the formation of sub-Neptune or sub-Saturn like planets. It is expected to be launched in 2020.

According to SciTech Daily, John Grunsfeld, from NASA's Science Mission Directorate, explained that the Kepler spacecraft has yielded many surprises, and with the discovery of three new rocky planet, s we may be closer now to learning whether these other planetary systems may harbor life of some kind. These are also called "extrasolar planets". "Over the next few years, I expect that they will be able to make further contributions to this exciting field of astronomy". The first exoplanet (51 Pegasi b) was discovered by Michael Mayor and Didier Queloz in 1995.

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Indian lab discovers large exoplanet around a Sun-like star