Astronomers Discovered New Exoplanet LHS 1140b

IAS Prelims 2023

This world is larger and more massive than the Earth and has likely retained most of its atmosphere. This makes it one of the most exciting targets for atmospheric studies.

An exoplanet orbiting a red dwarf star 40 light-years from Earth may be the new holder of the title ‘best place to look for signs of life beyond the solar system.’

Using ESO’s HARPS instrument, and other telescopes, astronomers discovered a ‘super-Earth’ orbiting in the habitable zone around the star LHS 1140.

The newly discovered super-Earth LHS 1140b orbits in the habitable zone around a faint red dwarf star named LHS 1140, in the constellation of Cetus (The Sea Monster).

Red dwarfs are much smaller and cooler than the Sun and, although LHS 1140b is ten times closer to its star than the Earth is to the Sun, it only receives about half as much sunlight from its star as the Earth and lies in the middle of the habitable zone.

The orbit is seen almost edge-on from Earth and as the exoplanet passes in front of the star once per orbit it blocks a little of its light every 25 days.

Unlike the TRAPPIST-1 system, no other exoplanets around LHS 1140 have been found.

Multi-planet systems are thought to be common around red dwarfs, so it is possible that additional exoplanets have gone undetected so far because they are too small.