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Astronomers 1st time measured transit of an Exoplanet 55 Cancri e using ground-base telescope

Dec 3, 2014 18:14 IST

A team of astronomers for first time measured the transit of an exoplanet named 55 Cancri e (super-Earth) in front of a Sun-like star using a ground-based telescope. The exoplanet 55 Cancri e was measured by 2.5 meter Nordic Optical Telescope located on La Palma Island in Spain.

The study related to this was published in the December 2014 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Lead author of the study is Enst de Mooij of Queen’s University Belfast, in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.

During its transit, the planet crosses its host star, 55 Cancri which is located just 40 light-years away from the Earth and visible to the naked eye. During the transit it blocked a tiny fraction of the starlight, dimming the star by 1/2000th (or 0.05 percent) for almost two hours.

Some facts of the 55 Cancri e (super-Earth)
• The planet 55 Cancri e is about twice as big and eight times as massive as the Earth with a period of 18 hours
• It is the innermost of five planets in the 55 Cancri System. The other four planets of the system are HD 75732, HIP 43587, HR 3522, and 55 Cnc
• Because of its proximity to the host star, the planet's dayside temperature reaches over 1700 Celsius - hot enough to melt metal - with conditions quite inhospitable to life.

Significance of the discovery
Discovery of 55 Cancri e using ground-based telescope is important because it raises the prospects of more such exoplanets in upcoming space missions such as Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO) and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellites (TESS) can find many small planets around bright stars.

Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO)
Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO) will be launched by the European Space Agency in 2024. It will be launched with an aim to search for transiting terrestrial planets.

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellites (TESS)
NASA’s 2017 Explorer Program that involves a space telescope named Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellites (TESS) will be launched exclusively for the purpose of searching exoplanets.

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