A ‘Super-Earth like Exoplanet “55 Cancri e” Discovered By Ground-based Telescope In Spain

Astronomers spotted an exoplanet named “55 Cancri e” while it was transiting a nearby star. The discovery was made via ground based telescope which proves the importance of old school ground based telescopes. The telescope used was 2.5 meter Nordic Optical Telescope which was located on La Palma Island in Spain.

According to a study to be published in ‘The Astrophysical Journal Letters’, The “55 Cancri e” is only at a distance of 40 light years from Earth, which is like neighborhood in celestial terms, therefore, making it visible to the naked eye.

When in transit, “55 Cancri e” crosses the star which blocks the part of its own starlight. During the blockage, the starlight was dimmed by 0.05% for about two hours which helped scientists to draw conclusion about the size of the planet, which is about 16,000 miles in diameter.

According a statement made by the lead author of the study, Enst de Mooij of Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom, the observations are evident of the fact that such small planets can be detected by using ground based telescopes.

“Upcoming space missions like TESS and PLATO may find many small planets around bright stars, and the follow up would be made by ground based instruments.” De Mooij explained the importance of the discovery.

With the aim of discovering new planets outside our solar system, European Space Agency is planning to launch Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO) in 2024 which will search for transiting terrestrial planets. NASA’s 2017 Explorer Program involves a space telescope named “Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellites” (TESS), exclusively for the purpose of searching exoplanets.

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