Discovery of Super-Earths

Human’s hunt for other planetary systems like our solar system is as old as the human existence itself. Very recently, astronomers have discovered three planets or planet like objects revolving round the star HD7924. This star is just 54-light year away from our very own earth.

The Automated Planet Finder or APF set at Lick observatory and ground-telescopes in Hawii and Arizoana have made this discovery possible. It’s found that all these three planets are very close to the star and revolving round the earth in 5, 15 and 24 days respectively.

The APF facility is specially designed by the astronomers after years of research. APF is made automated by combining it with computers. The software is developed to send command to the telescopes to make them work all day and night. Thus, maximum utilization of time is made possible.

It was way back to 2009 when planetary movements around HD7924 were first observed. KECK observatory, with the help of HIRES instrument installed on 10 meter KECK I telescope, found that a super-earth like planet is revolving round the said planet. This discovery took almost 5 years. The same combination of instruments was used by astronomer Andrew Howard and Barkley university professor Geoffrey Mercy to discover super-earths revolving our neighboring stars. On the process of such observation, another two planets of HD7924 were discovered. The three planets are 7-8 times larger than the earth, hence they are termed as super-earths.

The Automatic Photometric Telescope or APT at Fairborn Observatory also contributed some crucial information regarding this discovery. Sometimes star spots mimic the presence of planets. Long term observation and analysis of data make it possible to separate star spots from planetary presence. The combination of observations by APT, APF and KECK observatory have confirmed the presence of these super-earths around the star HD7924.

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