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A team of scientists at Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, discovered the planet, which revolves around a sun-like star some 600 light years away, by measuring the mass of the planet using the indigenously designed PRL Advance Radial-velocity Abu-Sky Search (Paras) spectrograph integrated with a 1.2m telescope at PRL’s Gurushikar Observatory in Mount Abu.
After watching the planet for more than a year, the team led by professor Abhijit Chakraborty came up with the deductions, the details of which will appear in the June issue of the Astronomical Journal of the American Astronomical Society.
In a post on the Indian Space Research Organisation’s website, scientists said the name of the host star is EPIC 211945201 or K2-236 and the planet will be known as EPIC 211945201b or K2-236b. With a surface temperature of 600°C, the planet was found take 19.5 Earth days to go around the star. Being seven times nearer its star in comparison with the Earth-Sun distance, it is uninhabitable.
According to scientists, the discovery is of importance for understanding the formation of such super-Neptune or sub-Saturn planets that are too close to the host star.
Initially, it was Nasa’s K2 (Kepler2) photometry that found that the source was a planetary candidate as it was transiting, where the planet body comes in between the star and the observer on Earth. Transiting is the process when the planet goes around the star and blocks a tiny amount of star-light. By measuring the amount of light blocked by the planet, its diameter or size can be measured. In this case Nasa data was not sufficient to confirm the planetary nature of the system.
Paras spectrograph, an instrument that separates light into a frequency spectrum and records the signal using a camera, made an independent measurement of the mass of the planet. PRL scientists observed the target for about 18 months and made calculations that suggested that elements like ice, silicates and iron content make 60% to 70% of the total mass. This detection was important as it adds to a sparse catalogue of confirmed exoplanets.