In the distance of 32 light-years from the Earth, astrophysicists found a new exoplanet with the same size as that of Neptune. This has ended the research that has been going on for decades now.
A star AU Microscopii or AU Mic of 20 – 30 million years, much younger than our Sun, has a mass half of it. In the initial years of the 2000s, this star was found to be surrounded by the debris. Since then, the search for an exoplanet around this star was the mission.
In the journal Nature, a paper is published describing the excitement around the discovery of AU Mic b. The co-author of the study, Jonathan Gagné from Université Montréal, Canada, says, “These stars generally have very strong magnetic fields, which make them very active. That explains in part why it took nearly 15 years to detect the exoplanet… The numerous spots and eruptions on the surface of AU Mic hampered its detection, which was already complicated by the presence of the disc.”
In 2010, the AU Mic was under the observation by a team led by Peter Plavchan who were using NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility or IRTF for the same. IRTF works in the infrared.
Gagné said, “[This made them aware of] the plausible presence of a planet [around AU Mic].
The AU Mic b was discovered by the amount of light of the star it blocked. It passes in front of its star in every 8.5 days, thus hinting its closeness to the star.
The mass of the exoplanet is found to be 3.4 times less than that of Neptune. This was discovered by combining the IRTF data with the data obtained at the European Southern Observatory. Also, astrophysicists suspect the exoplanet to made of up of gases.
To Barclay from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre says, “This star probably hasn’t had time to form small, rocky planets yet. It gives us a chance to get a picture of what might have happened before our own terrestrial planets like Earth and Venus formed.”