Astronomers at the Canary Island have detected a super earth orbiting its star only 40 light years away from us with the help of a ground based telescope, one of the first spotting of its kind. Ground based telescopes fail to give highly detailed or clear images due to atmospheric changes and vagaries, due to which space telescopes are preferred over them. Space based telescopes give a much better view because there is no atmosphere up there to blur the images.
No ground based telescope has been able to get a glimpse of planet similar to our own till date. The exoplanet was named 55 Cancri e and is almost double the size of our own planet. That is, almost 16,000 miles in diameter and eight times as massive. Though it still remains tiny if compared to some of the bigger planets of our solar system like Uranus and Neptune, it is ‘gigantic’ nevertheless. The surface temperature on 55 Cancri e can go as high as 1,700 degree Celsius.
The 2.5 meter Nordic Optical Telescope at La Palma (Spain) was able to spot the exoplanet while it was orbiting around its parent star. Its sun, 55 Cancri, is visible to the naked eye. As the planet went past it, it blocked a part of the light off its sun creating a hollow in the light emitted by its parent star.
The planet is not new to the astronomers. It had been spotted by a space based telescope nearly a decade back in 2004. Researchers say that until now, no other planet that ranked in the ‘Super Earth’ category was spotted using ground detection telescopes.
Observations of 55 Cancri e prove that ground based telescopes can certainly detect small exoplanets orbiting Sun-like stars, according to study lead author Ernst de Mooij from the Queen’s University, Belfast.
TESS ((Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) by NASA scheduled for 2017 and Plato (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) by the European Space Agency (ESA) scheduled for 2024 might now employ ground based telescopes to discover more Earth like planets in nearby galaxies.