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Astronomers Find a Dozen of Potentially Habitable Exoplanets

An artist's illustration of an exoplanet. Depositphotos.

Astronomers have confirmed the existence of 59 exoplanets, many of which are potentially habitable, thanks to project CARMENES.

The CARMENES project has published data from 20,000 astronomical observations made between 2016 and 2020, in which 362 nearby stars were studied. Data obtained by the observations allowed astronomers to discover a total of 59 exoplanets, it has been revealed. An instrument obtained the data from the Calar Alto Observatory (Almería, Spain) with the purpose of finding exoplanets similar to Earth (rocky and temperate), with the possibility of harboring water on their surface, with the condition that they are in the so-called ‘habitable zone’ of their star.

Discovery of 59 exoplanets

The plethora of data gathered by the observations eventually revealed 59 exoplanets, a dozen of which are habitable. The observations’ results and the discovery of the alien worlds have been detailed in a study published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. As explained in a statement, CARMENES is the scientific project’s name, the instrument with which the observations are made, and the consortium that was in charge of designing and building it. The Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia is one of the scientific institutions leading the research.

Potentially habitable exoplanets

In the image below, we see planets found with the same method as CARMENES but using other instruments; They show these as gray dots. During the 2106 2020 observations, CARMENES discovered and confirmed the existence of 6 Jupiter-Like planets with an estimated mass over 50 times that of Earth. CARMENES has discovered and confirmed 10 Neptune-like planets, with a mass ranging from 10 to 50 Earth masses, as well as 43 Earth-like worlds and super-Earths, with an estimated mass ten times Earth’s.

An illustration showing discovered exoplanets. Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC).
An illustration showing discovered exoplanets. Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC).

What makes CARMENES unique?

CARMENES looks for alien worlds with the so-called radial velocity technique. It searches the night sky for stars, looks at them, and then looks for small oscillations in the stars’ motion by the movement of planets that revolve around them. CARMENES looks at Red Dwarfs, the most abundant type of star in the Milky Way Galaxy. Red Dwarfs are smaller than the Sun and offer conditions for the existence of liquid water in close orbits. This is important because it means that the habitable zone around Red Dwarfs is much closer than compared to solar-type Suns.

However, what makes CARMENES so unique in precision and stability in measuring slight variations that exoplanets might produce around distant stars is that the instrument can detect speed variations in the movement of distant stars that are located billions of kilometers away. In fact, the instrument has a precision of the order of one meter per second, as per the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia.

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