Explainer: Indian scientists discover exoplanet 600 light years from Earth

The path-breaking discovery was made by a team led by Abhijit Chakraborty of the Ahmedabad-based Physical Research Laboratory.

The planets, which were discovered around a star called K2-239, are incredibly close to Earth in overall size, with radii measuring between 1.0 and 1.1 times that of our own planet.

The surface temperature of the planet was found to be around 600 degrees Celsius and was found to be seven times nearer to its star, in comparison with Earth-sun distance. The team found the planet to be smaller in size than Saturn and bigger than Neptune. The exoplanet is around 27 times the mass of Earth and has six times the radius of our planet.

The three Earth-sized planets all have quite short orbits around their sun, with the longest orbit of one of the planets being completed in just 10.1 days. Such a high temperature might make it uninhabitable for living creatures.

The Indian team from the PRL employed their "PRL Advance Radial-velocity Abu-sky Search" (PARAS) spectrograph with which they measured the mass of the new exoplanet. The name of the host star is EPIC 211945201 or K2-236. The scientists estimate that over 60% of its mass could be made up of heavy elements like ice, silicates and iron. Kepler is the first NASA mission capable of detecting Earth-size planets, using the transit method or tiny dips in the brightness of a star when a planet crosses in front of it. It was designed by the members of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Division of PRL. Isro said very few such spectrographs exist around the world (mostly in the U.S. and Europe) that can do such precise measurements. 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. The newly discovered planet was found around a Sun-like star, according to Isro. It's very hard to discover an exoplanet because they are usually billions of times fainter than the stars they orbit.

The first exoplanet was discovered in the early 1990s.

Also published on Medium.

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