KOI 456.04: New Exoplanet System That Is A ‘Mirror Image’ Of Earth And The Sun!
From what the pairing of this particular sun and planet mean, to whether it’s something that we could habitate, and more! Join us as we reveal to you KOI-456.04: New exoplanet system that is a ‘mirror image’ of Earth and the sun!
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or us here on Earth, there is a desire to not just look amongst the stars for various things that can help us find out more about the universe, we’re looking for things that are, quite simply, like us. Meaning that we’re constantly searching for planets outside our solar system (known as exoplanets) that might be like Earth, or might be at the very least CLOSE to it.
To that end, we have been successful.
The number of potentially habitable exoplanets keeps growing, as more and more worlds orbiting distant stars are discovered. Usually they’re found via satellites, probes, or observing data that has been gathered and seeing something that people have missed before. But either way, they’re being found, and the results have been interesting in various ways.
For example, most of those planets discovered have been found orbiting red dwarf stars, since they are dimmer, and planets are easier to detect around them (and also are the most common stars in our galaxy). But now, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen, Germany, and others from the U.S., have announced that they have found a new exoworld, less than twice the size of Earth, which orbits a sunlike star (meaning one that is like our own sun), Kepler-160, just over 3,000 light-years from our solar system.
What makes this discovery of particular interest is that the planet appears to be orbiting its star at a similar distance as Earth’s from the sun, and receives almost the same amount of energy from its star as Earth does. This would make it the most similar to the Earth-sun system of any exoplanetary system discovered so far, almost a mirror image.
The peer-reviewed findings were published in Astronomy & Astrophysics, Vol. 638, id. A10 and submitted to arXiv on June 3, 2020. The research also includes scientists from the Sonneberg Observatory, the University of Göttingen, the University of California in Santa Cruz and NASA.
Now, some of you might be confused as to why we care about this “mirror image”, especially since it’s clear that the planet isn’t exactly like Earth as it’s nearly twice the size. But in this particular case, it’s not about the planet, but the positioning of it compared to the star, as well as the star itself.
As noted, many planets that have been found have been seen around Red Dwarf stars. Which is fine in context, but it means that the planet has to be closer to the star to get the right amount of energy to produce water, life, and more.
We however orbit a Yellow Dwarf star, and where we are in our solar system is quite literally perfect for having life. The sun gives us energy and light, and yet thanks to our atmosphere and the distance the solar radiation has to travel, we don’t get burnt up, nor are we too cold. Which is what is the cases with Venus and Mars respectively.
You’d think that it would be easy to go and find another planet that has the perfect positioning to the yellow sun it orbits to be like Earth, but you would be wrong. We’ve come close at times, but KOI-456.04 (that’s the name of the planet) is the literal closest we’ve gotten to finding a planet that could mirror our own in terms of how it interacts with the sun. So thus you can see why people are so excited about this.
While the new planet hasn’t been fully confirmed yet, the paper states that the probability of it being a real planet and not a false alarm is 85%. By far, most planetary candidates found do end up being confirmed later with more observations. From the paper:
“The vespa software predicts that this signal has an astrophysical false-positive probability of FPP_3 = 1.8e-3 when the multiplicity of the system is taken into account. Kepler vetting diagnostics yield a multiple event statistic of MES = 10.7, which corresponds to an ~85 % reliability against false alarms due to instrumental artifacts such as rolling bands.”
So what is this probable new world like?
From what we know so far, it transits its star as seen from Earth. It is estimated to have a radius of 1.9 Earth radii, making it a super-Earth, and orbits its star in 378 days (which is only roughly 13 days more than our own world and thus wouldn’t be too much of an adjustment to make).
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