15 new exoplanets discovered orbiting red dwarf stars

A group of astronomers have found 15 new exoplanets outside of our solar system.
By Joseph Scalise | Mar 13, 2018
Astronomers working at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have found 15 previously undiscovered alien worlds near our solar system, two new papers publishedin the Astronomical Journal report.

The exoplanets sit near small, cool stars known as red dwarfs. Though all of them are of interest, three are particularly important because they appear to be super-Earths. In addition, one of the planets -- known asK2-155d -- orbits the red dwarf K2-155 and sits within the habitable zone. That, combined with its Earth-like size, means it could be a potential candidate for extraterrestrial life.

The team also believes K2-155d could hold liquid water on its surface. While that furthers its case as a potential host for alien life, more studies need to be conducted on the planet and its host star before any such claims can be made.

"In our simulations, the atmosphere and the composition of the planet were assumed to be Earth-like, and there's no guarantee that this is the case," said lead author of one of the studies Teruyuki Hirano, a researcher at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in astatement. "Large planets are only discovered around metal-rich stars and what we found was consistent with our predictions. The few planets with a radius about three times that of Earth were found orbiting the most metal-rich red dwarfs."

Researchers found the distant worlds by using data taken from NASA's Kepler spacecraft, the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, and the Nordic Optical Telescope (NOT) in Spain.

Beyond the planets, the team also discovered that the red dwarfs could have similar qualities to planets orbiting solar system stars. In addition, the worlds have a similar radius gap that planets around solar-type stars are supposed to possess.

Such findings are important because they help scientists get a better idea of the universe. The astronomers hope that they can continue looking for new systems and that theTransiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will lead to many more discoveries when it launches next year.

"TESS is expected to find many candidate planets around bright stars closer to Earth," added Hirano, according to International Business Times. "This will greatly facilitate follow-up observations, including investigation of planetary atmospheres and determining the precise orbit of the planets."

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