One-in-a-million super Earth discovered by scientists

Nadine Carroll
·2-min read

A planet similar to Earth has been discovered by a team of astronomers.

The rare super-Earth planet is one of only a handful that have been found with both size and orbit comparable to that of Earth, and dubbed “one in a million” according to astronomers at the University of Canterbury (UC) in New Zealand.

According to a media release from UC, a ‘year’ on the super-Earth would take 617 days due to the host star being about 10 per cent the mass of our sun, and the planet’s orbit would be the equivalent of between Venus and Earth in our own solar system.

Kepler-62f is a a super-Earth discovered by NASA's Kepler spacecraft
Another super-Earth, Kepler-62f (artists impression pictured), was discovered by NASA's Kepler spacecraft in 2013. Source: Getty

Dr Herrera Martin, who was part of the team of astronomers who collaborated on the super-Earth research, described the planet discovery as incredibly rare.

“To have an idea of the rarity of the detection, the time it took to observe the magnification due to the host star was approximately five days, while the planet was detected only during a small five-hour distortion,” he said.

“After confirming this was indeed caused by another ‘body’ different from the star, and not an instrumental error, we proceeded to obtain the characteristics of the star-planet system.”

The super-Earth was discovered using three telescopes located in Chile, Australia and South Africa that measure the light output from around 100 million stars every 15 minutes, detecting what is called microlensing events, of which there are about 3000 detected every year, UC’s Associate Professor Michael Albrow explained.

“Dr Herrera Martin first noticed that there was an unusual shape to the light output from this event, and undertook months of computational analysis that resulted in the conclusion that this event was due to a star with a low-mass planet,” Professor Albrow said.

According to Nasa, although little is known about super-Earths, they don’t exactly show ideal conditions for living.

One super-Earth called Kepler-22b is thought to be covered in an ocean, while there is also a super-Earth exoplanet with temperatures hot enough to vaporise metal.

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