Newborn Exoplanet Discovered

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It’s not every day the science community stumbles upon a newborn planet out in the wilds of the great unknown, but they have just found another rare space rock and gave it the fancy name of K2-33b.

It’s not every day the science community stumbles upon a newborn planet out in the wilds of the great unknown, but they have just found another rare space rock.

A group of astronomers lead by a team out of Caltech made the new planet discovery while analyzing data sent back from the Kepler K2 mission. In the usual fashion of how astronomers go about finding things, there was an anomaly in the data from the planet’s host star – K2-33. Stars emit constant light, and one way researchers look for planets, or comets, or other astronomical objects is if there are any changes in that light pattern.

Sure enough, they detected a dip in the light, a periodic dimming if you will. It was the first big clue that there could be a planet orbiting this star. The research team followed up with another series of observations, this time out of Hawaii and using the Keck telescope out of W.M. Keck Observatory. The Keck telescopes are two of the most powerful telescopes in use around the world. The site at which they sit, the Mauna Kea summit, is considered to be one of the most important astronomical viewing sites we have.

So the team determines that yes, this blip is indeed a planet, and gave it the fancy name of K2-33b. It literally is a new planet. K2-33b is the youngest planet discovered to date! At roughly 5-10 million years old, it is a mere infant. Earth is estimated to be 4.5-billion years old, getting on in its years – reaching that middle age where Earth is starting to think about buying a shiny red sports car and trading in the moon for a younger model.

K2-33b has so much to offer, so much potential to show scientists what happens to a newborn planet. It’s roughly 6x larger than Earth, sits 20x closer to its parent star than our planet does, and completes an orbit every 5 days. The next step is to figure out what the new planet’s mass and density is, which will allow us to determine its future fate.

Welcome to the universe,  K2-33b!

Source: geek.com

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