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Astronomers Spot Small Rocky Planet

Astronomers used the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile to shed new light on Rocky Planet around a nearby star, L 98-59, that resemble those in the inner Solar System.  The new findings are a planet with half the mass of Venus, the lightest exoplanet ever to be measured using the radial velocity technique, an ocean world, and a possible planet in the habitable zone. The study was published in astronomy and astrophysics.

María Rosa Zapatero Osorio, an astronomer at the Centre for Astrobiology in Madrid, Spain and one of the authors of the study said that the planet in the habitable zone may have an atmosphere that could protect and support life. The results are an important step in the quest to find life on Earth-sized planets outside the Solar System.

The detection of biosignatures on an exoplanet depends on the ability to study its atmosphere, but current telescopes are not large enough to achieve the resolution needed to do this for small, Rocky Planet. The newly studied planetary system, called L 98-59 after its star, is an attractive target for future observations of exoplanet atmospheres. It orbits a star only 35 light-years away and has now been found to host Rocky Planet, like Earth or Venus, which are close enough to the star to be warm.

With the contribution of ESO’s VLT, the team was able to infer that three of the planets may contain water in their interiors or atmospheres. The two planets closest to the star in the L 98-59 system are probably dry, but might have small amounts of water, while up to 30% of the third planet’s mass could be water, making it an ocean world.Astronomers found hidden exoplanets that had not previously been spotted in this planetary system. They discovered a fourth planet and suspect there is a fifth, in a zone at the right distance from the star for liquid water to exist on its surface.

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