Feeds

Astronomers spy 32 new exoplanets

Galaxy packed with 'super-Earths'

SANS - Survey on application security programs

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has announced its discovery of 32 new exoplanets - a bountiful harvest of new worlds to conclude the initial five-year phase of its High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) planet-sniffing programme.

The 32 bodies range in size from five times the mass of Earth to 5-10 times the mass of Jupiter. HARPS detects "small changes in the radial velocity of a star as it wobbles slightly under the gentle gravitational pull from an (unseen) exoplanet", and its accuracy has enabled it to sniff out "24 of the 28 planets known with masses below 20 Earth masses".

Artist's impression of the exoplanet orbiting Gliese 667 C. Pic: ESO

Among the latest crop of such bodies is a "super-Earth" orbiting Gliese 667 C, which weighs in at six Earth masses (see artist's impression, above). The ESO explains that it "circulates around its low-mass host star at a distance equal to only 1/20th of the Earth-Sun distance", and that "the host star is a companion to two other low-mass stars, which are seen here in the distance".

The total of known exoplanets now stands at around 400. The HARPS observations, made using the ESO 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla, Chile, have concentrated on "solar-like stars, low-mass "M dwarf" stars, or stars with a lower metal content than the Sun".

Its previous sightings include the first super-Earth, spotted orbiting around µ Ara in 2004, and the "first super-Earth in the habitable zone of a small star".

The HARPS team's findings over five years suggest that our galaxy is peppered with these "low-mass" bodies. Stephane Udry from Geneva University explained to the BBC: "From [our] results, we know now that at least 40 per cent of solar-type stars have low-mass planets. This is really important because it means that low-mass planets are everywhere, basically."

Another significant result of the HARPS survey is that the ESO has identified "three candidate exoplanets around stars that are metal-deficient". It elaborates that such stars "are thought to be less favourable for the formation of planets, which form in the metal-rich disc around the young star", but that "planets up to several Jupiter masses have been found orbiting metal-deficient stars, setting an important constraint for planet formation models".

The ESO will now continue search for super-Earths around solar-type stars and M dwarfs, and hints that new exoplanetary announcements are imminent, based on the last five years' observations.

There's more on the new discoveries here. ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Melting permafrost switches to nasty, high-gear methane release
Result? 'Way more carbon being released into the atmosphere as methane'
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.