Indian Scientists Discover New Planet 600 Light Years Away

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At least three rocky planets have been found, two of them being 1.1 times the radius of Earth, and the third planet being nearly the exact size.

With this discovery, India is now among the league of countries that have discovered planets around stars.

They spent a year a half at PRL's Gurushikhar Observatory in Mount Abu, India, studying the changes in light coming from the planet's host star, EPIC 211945201 or K2-236, and performing an independent confirmation of its mass.

The exoplanet is reported to be smaller than Saturn but bigger than Neptune.

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The planet has been discovered using an indigenous spectrograph known as PRL Advance Radial Velocity Abu-sky Search or PARAS along with a 1.2m Telescope. Both the planet and the star have been named EPIC. "Very few such spectrographs exist around the world (mostly in the U.S. and in the Europe) that can do such precise measurements", the space agency said on its website late on June 8. The exoplanet is around 27 times the mass of Earth and has six times the radius of our planet. It is closer to Neptune, he added. It is seven times closer to the star as compared to the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The PRL scientists observed the target over a time-baseline of 420 days (in about 1.5 years) using the PARAS spectrograph for probing the nature of the system.

Based on the mass and radius, model-dependent calculations suggest that the heavy elements, like ice, silicates, and iron content is 60 to 70% of the total mass.

In an exciting first, Indian scientists have discovered a sub-Saturn exoplanet orbiting a Sun-like star around 600 light-years away. This is what they have so far discovered.

Going forward, the researchers plan to use the upcoming James Webb space telescope to investigate what the atmosphere of these new planets is like, which could give us a big clue as to whether or not they'd be able to support life. This might make it uninhabitable, but such a discovery is of importance for understanding the formation mechanism of such super-Neptune or sub-Saturn kind of planets that are too close to the host star.

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