discover new planet in Milky Way
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A planet discovered 1,500 light years from Earth is remarkably similar to those
in our own solar system, according to astronomers.
The Jupiter-size world, called Corot-9b, is orbiting a distant star in our Milky
Way every 95 days, reports dailymail.co.uk.
Scientists believe it could become a 'Rosetta stone' by helping them to
understand other 'exoplanets' elsewhere in the galaxy.
'Corot-9b is the first exoplanet that really does resemble planets in our solar
system. It has the size of Jupiter and an orbit similar to that of Mercury,'
said Hans Deeg, one of the scientists from the Institute of Astrophysics.
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The planet was detected by the CoRoT space telescope operated by the French
space agency, CNES.
Its Sun-like parent star, Corot-9, is in the constellation of Serpens, the
More than 400 exoplanets have been discovered to date, but most are so-called
'hot Jupiters' - gas giants that hug their parent stars in close orbits and have
surface temperatures of 1,000 C or more.
These are the easiest planets to find using the common method of measuring the
'wobble' their gravity gives their parent stars.
About 70 exoplanets have been found using a different method which relies on the
planet passing in front of its star, or 'transiting'. The planet reveals itself
by blotting out some of the star's light causing it to dim.
Corot-9b was identified by the transit method. The planet took eight hours to
pass in front of its star, which provided astronomers with a lot of information.
Soon, astronauts to orbit Earth in inflatable space stations
The planet turned out to be unusual because it was not a 'hot' Jupiter.
Depending on the extent of reflective clouds in its atmosphere, it has a surface
temperature of between minus 20 and 160C.
Didier Queloz, from the University of Geneva in Switzerland and co-author of the
research published today in the journal Nature, said: 'Our analysis has provided
more information on Corot-9b than for other exoplanets of the same type.'
'It may open up a new field of research to understand the atmospheres of
moderate and low-temperature planets, and in particular a completely new window
in our understanding of low-temperature chemistry,' he added.
Claire Moutou, from the Astrophysical Laboratory of Marseille, France, another
member of the 60-strong international team, said: 'It is bound to become a
Rosetta stone in exoplanet research.'
The planet was spotted by CoRoT in 2008. Land-based astronomers manning the 3.6
metre European Southern Observatory at La Silla, Chile, followed up the
discovery by looking in detail at the star system.
Using an instrument called HARP which measures light wavelengths they confirmed
that Corot-9b was an exoplanet about 80 per cent as massive as Jupiter.
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