This is a new, small and near planet that now the U.S. researchers call UCF 1.01. It is an exoplanet detected near GJ 436b, an exoplanet class “Hot Neptune”.
Researchers of the University of Central Florida (UCF) have discovered what may be a really small extrasolar planet, even smaller in size to the Earth. UCF 1.01 – the acronym assigned to – it is very close to its star and would have a size equal to two thirds respect our planet. In astronomical terms, the object is located very close to us, distant just 33 light-years.
“With the help of the Spitzer Space Telescope we have found a convincing proof that UCF 1.1 may be a very small planet, very warm and very close to us” said Kevin Stevenson, a researcher at UCF and lead author of the study, published online on “The Astrophysical Journal“.
The discovery was achieved by studying GJ 436b, an exoplanet similar to the size of Neptune, but much warmer. Astronomers collected data by means showed the possibility of the existence of at least one planet in that system.
The team has pointed to slight decreasing in the amount of infrared light, scattered by the star around which GJ 436b orbits. A review of data from Spitzer archives has shown that these IR behavior were periodicals. So astronomers have explained the reason of these periodic variations to the presence of a planet, located between us and the star, and capable of blocking a tiny fraction of light.
“I found these weak dips in starlight and I wanted to determine their origin. I knew that if these signals were periodic, could have come from an unknown planet, “says Stevenson.
Although, in the past , Spitzer had already done observations toward other exoplanets, this is the first time he made a discovery using the technique of transit (already used by other telescopes, such as NASA’s Kepler).
It is likely that the star GJ 436 guests the first multi-planet system discovered by a space mission different by Kepler. There is still uncertainty about the mass and dimensions of this new exoplanet. The tools, in fact, are still not able to measure the mass of objects so small. As pointed out by Joseph Harrigton, University of Central Florida: “We can not yet confirm the mass of UCF-1.01, but we are confident that future observations will be in line with our results. ”
Two nearby sub-Earth-sized exoplanet candidates in the GJ 436 system of Kevin B. Stevenson, Joseph Harrington, Nate B. Lust, Nikole K. Lewis, Guillaume Montagnier, Julianne I. Moses, Channon Visscher, Jasmina Blecic, Ryan A. Hardy, Patricio Cubillos, Christopher J. Field being prepared for publication on The Astrophysical Journal.