Three Earth-sized planets have been discovered orbiting a dim and cool star, and may be the best place to search for life beyond the Solar System.
In 1995, in Geneva, PhD student Didier Queloz discovered a planet orbiting another sun – something that astronomers had predicted, but never found. Today he continues his terra hunting for extreme worlds and Earth twins in Cambridge.
Astronomers have discovered a disc of planetary debris surrounding a young sun-like star that shares remarkable similarities with the Kuiper Belt that lies beyond Neptune, and may aid in understanding how our solar system developed.
Astronomers have detected wildly changing temperatures on a super Earth – the first time any atmospheric variability has been observed on a rocky planet outside the solar system – and believe it could be due to huge amounts of volcanic activity, further adding to the mystery of what had been nicknamed the ‘diamond planet’.
The discovery of water vapour in the atmospheres of three exoplanets includes the most precise measurement of any chemical in a planet outside the solar system, and has major implications for planet formation and the search for water on Earth-like habitable exoplanets in future.
Latest research has uncovered a massive clump of carbon monoxide in a young solar system. The gas is the result of near constant collisions of icy comets – suggesting vast swarms of tightly packed comets in thrall to the gravitational pull of an as-yet-unseen exoplanet.