Gliese 581 e

Gliese 581 e

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Gliese 581 e or Gl 581 e is an extrasolar planet
Extrasolar planet
An extrasolar planet, or exoplanet, is a planet outside the Solar System. A total of such planets have been identified as of . It is now known that a substantial fraction of stars have planets, including perhaps half of all Sun-like stars...

 found around Gliese 581
Gliese 581
Gliese 581 is a red dwarf star with spectral type M3V, located 20.3 light years away from Earth in the constellation Libra. Its estimated mass is about a third of that of the Sun, and it is the 89th closest known star system to the Sun. Observations suggest that the star has at least six planets:...

, an M3V red dwarf
Red dwarf
According to the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, a red dwarf star is a small and relatively cool star, of the main sequence, either late K or M spectral type....

A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity. At the end of its lifetime, a star can also contain a proportion of degenerate matter. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth...

 approximately 20.5 light-year
A light-year, also light year or lightyear is a unit of length, equal to just under 10 trillion kilometres...

s away from Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 in the constellation
In modern astronomy, a constellation is an internationally defined area of the celestial sphere. These areas are grouped around asterisms, patterns formed by prominent stars within apparent proximity to one another on Earth's night sky....

 of Libra
Libra (constellation)
Libra is a constellation of the zodiac. Its name is Latin for weighing scales, and its symbol is . It is fairly faint, with no first magnitude stars, and lies between Virgo to the west and Scorpius to the east.-Notable features:]...

. It is the fourth planet discovered in the system and the first in order from the star.

The planet was discovered by an Observatory of Geneva
Observatory of Geneva
Observatoire de Genève is an astronomical observatory at Sauverny in the municipality of Versoix, Canton of Geneva, Switzerland...

 team led by Michel Mayor
Michel Mayor
Dr. Michel G. E. Mayor is a Swiss astrophysicist and professor emeritus at the University of Geneva's Department of Astronomy. He formally retired in 2007, but remains active as a researcher at the Observatory of Geneva...

, using the HARPS
High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher
The High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher is a high-precision echelle spectrograph installed in 2002 on ESO's 3.6m telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile. The first light was achieved in February 2003...

 instrument on the European Southern Observatory
European Southern Observatory
The European Southern Observatory is an intergovernmental research organisation for astronomy, supported by fifteen countries...

 3.6 m (141.7 in) telescope
A telescope is an instrument that aids in the observation of remote objects by collecting electromagnetic radiation . The first known practical telescopes were invented in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 1600s , using glass lenses...

 in La Silla
La Silla Observatory
La Silla Observatory is an astronomical observatory in Chile with three telescopes built and operated by the European Southern Observatory organisation, and several others are partly maintained by ESO...

, Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

. The discovery was announced on 21 April 2009. Mayor's team employed the radial velocity
Radial velocity
Radial velocity is the velocity of an object in the direction of the line of sight . In astronomy, radial velocity most commonly refers to the spectroscopic radial velocity...

 technique, in which the orbit size and mass
Mass can be defined as a quantitive measure of the resistance an object has to change in its velocity.In physics, mass commonly refers to any of the following three properties of matter, which have been shown experimentally to be equivalent:...

 of a planet
A planet is a celestial body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, science,...

 are determined based on the small perturbations it induces in its parent star's orbit
In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in space, for example the orbit of a planet around the center of a star system, such as the Solar System...

 via gravity
Gravitation, or gravity, is a natural phenomenon by which physical bodies attract with a force proportional to their mass. Gravitation is most familiar as the agent that gives weight to objects with mass and causes them to fall to the ground when dropped...

At a minimum mass of 1.7 Earth mass
Earth mass
Earth mass is the unit of mass equal to that of the Earth. 1 M⊕ = 5.9722 × 1024 kg. Earth mass is often used to describe masses of rocky terrestrial planets....

es, it is the least-massive extrasolar planet discovered around a normal star, and thus the closest in mass to Earth. At an orbital distance of just 0.03 AU
Astronomical unit
An astronomical unit is a unit of length equal to about or approximately the mean Earth–Sun distance....

 from its parent star, however, it orbits further in than the habitable zone
Habitable zone
In astronomy and astrobiology, a habitable zone is an umbrella term for regions that are considered favourable to life. The concept is inferred from the empirical study of conditions favourable for Life on Earth...

. It is unlikely to possess an atmosphere due to its high temperature and strong radiation from the star. Although scientists think it probably has a rocky surface similar to Earth, it is also likely to experience intense tidal heating similar to (and likely more intense than) that affecting Jupiter's moon Io
Io (moon)
Io ) is the innermost of the four Galilean moons of the planet Jupiter and, with a diameter of , the fourth-largest moon in the Solar System. It was named after the mythological character of Io, a priestess of Hera who became one of the lovers of Zeus....

. Gliese 581 e completes an orbit of its sun in approximately 3.15 days.

See also

  • PSR B1257+12 A
    PSR B1257+12 A
    PSR B1257+12A is an extrasolar planet approximately 980 light-years away in the constellation of Virgo. The planet is the innermost object orbiting the pulsar PSR B1257+12, i.e. a pulsar planet...

     — a much smaller pulsar planet
    Pulsar planet
    Pulsar planets are planets that are found orbiting pulsars, or rapidly rotating neutron stars. The first such planet to be discovered was around a millisecond pulsar and was the first extrasolar planet to be confirmed as discovered.-Pulsar planets:...

  • Habitability of red dwarf systems
    Habitability of red dwarf systems
    Determining the habitability of red dwarf systems could help reveal the likelihood of extraterrestrial life, as red dwarfs make up most stars in the Milky Way Galaxy...

External links