- News Home
6 March 2014 1:04 pm ,
Vol. 343 ,
Antiretroviral drugs can protect people from becoming infected by HIV. But so-called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP...
Two studies show that eating a diet low in protein and high in carbohydrates is linked to a longer, healthier life, and...
Considered an icon of conservation science, researchers at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) headquarters in Washington, D.C.,...
The new atlas, which shows the distribution of important trace metals and other substances, is the first product of...
Early in April, the first of a fleet of environmental monitoring satellites will lift off from Europe's spaceport in...
Since 2000, U.S. government health research agencies have spent almost $1 billion on an effort to churn out thousands...
Magdalena Koziol, a former postdoc at Yale University, was the victim of scientific sabotage. Now, she is suing the...
- 6 March 2014 1:04 pm , Vol. 343 , #6175
- About Us
Smallest Distant Planets Yet Detected
29 March 2000 7:00 pm
WASHINGTON, D.C.--The planet hunters are at it again, and this time, they've bagged two Saturn-sized worlds. The two planets orbiting distant stars are the smallest extrasolar planets yet found, and they're the first proof that scientists would be able to spot a solar system with a geometry like our own.
In the past 5 years, astronomers have detected about 30 planets beyond our sun's neighborhood. No one has seen these distant planets directly, but they are revealed by their gravity: The tug of orbiting planets creates telltale wobbles in a star's motion. Smaller planets exert less power over their suns, so it has been all but impossible to find a planet very distant from its sun or smaller than about half the mass of Jupiter--until recently.
Astronomers Geoff Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley, and Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C., have found about two-thirds of all the extrasolar planets to date. Now, they have tripled the precision of their spectrometer and detected two planets roughly one-third the size of Jupiter, they announced today at a NASA press briefing. The first planet orbits the star HD43675, located 109 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros; the second orbits the star 79 Ceti, 117 light-years away in the constellation Cetus. The detection of such small planets means that Marcy and Butler's equipment is sensitive enough to detect a twin of our solar system, one with a Jupiter-mass planet fairly distant from its star.
Carnegie Institution astrophysicist Alan Boss believes that the detection of these two planets suggests that there are a whole range of planetary masses in alien systems--from rare super-Jupiters to fairly common sub-Saturns and below. "What we're seeing is really just the tip of the iceberg," he says. NASA space scientist Anne Kinney concurs: "This is brand new; we're going to learn what kind of animals are in that zoo."