Astronomers, Including One From Texas A&M, Detect Cold, Earth-Mass Planet Orbiting Dim Sun-Like Star

By: Texas A&M Press Release
By: Texas A&M Press Release

COLLEGE STATION - An international team of astronomers has discovered a new exoplanet orbiting just one star in a two-star system -- a dynamic duo not only strikingly similar to our Earth and Sun but also key to the continuing evolution of planetary formation science.

The team's research, published today in the July 4 edition of Science, details a planet twice the mass of Earth and similar in its orbit as the primary component of a relatively close binary system, which typically involves two stars orbiting each other as a pair, according to Texas A&M University astronomer and exoplanet expert Darren DePoy.

"The planet is interesting because of the similarity with its mass and orbit relative to its star being about the same as ours," DePoy said. "Because the star is much less luminous than the Sun, however, the planet is cold."

DePoy says the planet, called OGLE-2013-BLG-0341LBb, is in the Milky Way Galaxy, in the disk about halfway to the center and quite a long way off -- about 3,000 light-years from Earth.

"We are observing the target with the Spitzer Space Telescope, which should allow us to determine a more precise distance, given that the satellite is relatively far from the Earth and has a different perspective on the event," he added.

DePoy, director of Texas A&M's Charles R. '62 and Judith G. Munnerlyn Astronomical Instrumentation Laboratory and a member of the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, helped set up the team's observational network and build the instrumentation used for their measurements. He joined the Texas A&M faculty in 2008 as holder of the Rachal-Mitchell-Heep Endowed Professorship in the Department of Physics and Astronomy after an 18-year career at Ohio State University, home of the paper's lead author, Andrew Gould.

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