Space planets found about 2,500 light years away from us

Artist's rendition of space planet in star cluster Messier 67 (Credit: ESO/L. Calçada)
Artist’s rendition of space planet in star cluster Messier 67 (Credit: ESO/L. Calçada)

Main Points:

Scientists have found a planet about 2,500 light years away in the star cluster Messier 67. This planet has been discovered by using European Southern Observatory Harps planet hunter in Chile.

Published in:

Astronomy & Astrophysics

Study Further:

This planet is present in the constellation Cancer (The Crab) having about 500 stars. This cluster Messier 67 is about 4 billion years old, i.e. almost of the same age as that of Earth and Sun.

This planet in space is of special interest for two reasons. First, it is rotating around the star that is almost similar to our Sun and astronomers are referring this star as “Sun’s twin”. Second, it is one of the very few planets that have been found in star clusters like Messier 67.

“In the Messier 67 star cluster the stars are all about the same age and composition as the Sun. This makes it a perfect laboratory to study how many planets form in such a crowded environment, and whether they form mostly around more massive or less massive stars,” noted Anna Brucalassi, lead author of the study.

The team of scientists studied 88 stars for six years to check the presence of planets around them. They found three planets; one was found around a massive red star and the other two were found rotating around stars identical to the Sun. These later planets have a mass of about one-third of Jupiter and known as “hot Jupiters”. These planets rotate around their stars in seven and five days respectively.

“These new results show that planets in open star clusters are about as common as they are around isolated stars – but they are not easy to detect,” Luca Pasquini, study co-author said.

“The new results are in contrast to earlier work that failed to find cluster planets, but agrees with some other more recent observations. We are continuing to observe this cluster to find how stars with and without planets differ in mass and chemical makeup,” Pasquini noted.

Sources:

First Planet Found Around Solar Twin in Star Cluster – ESO (http://goo.gl/b0WDVw)

A. Brucalassi et al. (2014). Three planetary companions around M67 stars Astronomy & Astrophysics DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201322584

Usman Zafar Paracha

Usman Zafar Paracha is Assistant Professor, Pharmaceutics, in Hajvery University, Lahore, Pakistan.