The HARPS team, led by Michel Mayor (University of Geneva, Switzerland), announced the discovery of more than 50 new exoplanets orbiting nearby stars, including sixteen super-Earths, (planets with a mass between one and ten times that of Earth), including one that orbits at the edge of the habitable zone — a narrow zone around a star in which water may be present in liquid form if conditions are right.This is the largest number of such planets ever announced at one time bringing the total number of planets discovered outside our solar system to 645. More than 1200 exo-planet candidates have been found by NASA’s Kepler mission using an alternate method. To date, HARPS has discovered two super-Earths that may lie within the habitable zone.
In the eight years since it started surveying stars like the Sun, HARPS has been used to discover more than 150 new planets.”In the coming ten to twenty years we should have the first list of potentially habitable planets in the Sun’s neighbourhood. Making such a list is essential before future experiments can search for possible spectroscopic signatures of life in the exoplanet atmospheres,” concludes Dr. Mayor, who discovered the first-ever exoplanet around a normal star in 1995.
The results were presented yesterday, September 12, at the conference on Extreme Solar Systems held at the Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA.