Thursday, February 20, 2020
The Habitable Zone Planet Finder spectrograph at Texas’ Hobby-Eberly Telescope, helped astronomers to verify the existence of an exoplanet first detected by the Kepler spacecraft.
Using the Habitable Zone Planet Finder instrument, a team of scientists – including UCI astronomer Paul Robertson – has confirmed that an object previously detected by the Kepler space telescope is an exoplanet, a planet orbiting a star outside our solar system. The team’s findings were published recently in The Astronomical Journal. Called G 9-40b, the body is about twice the size of the Earth, slightly smaller than Neptune, and orbits a low-mass M dwarf star only 100 light years away. Kepler detected the planet by observing its transit across the star’s front, with an expected dimming of light cast by the host. Through precise measurements of infrared signals, the sophisticated Habitable Zone Planet Finder – or HPF – spectrograph was able to accurately identify G 9-40b as an exoplanet, ruling out the possibility of a close stellar neighbor or binary companion to the dwarf star. High-contrast adaptive optics imaging observations using the ShARCS camera on the 3-meter C. Donald Shane telescope at California’s Lick Observatory showed that the host star was the true source of the transits.