Astronomers find 60 planets, including 'super-Earth', orbiting stars in our galaxy

Astronomers have discovered 60 new planets orbiting stars near the Earth's solar system.

The team of international scientists, which include Dr Mikko Tuomi of the University of Hertfordshire, also found evidence of a further 54 planets - bringing the total number of potential new worlds to 114.

A hot "super-Earth" with a rocky surface located in the fourth nearest star system to the sun was among the extrasolar planets discovered.

Researchers said the planet - named Gliese 411b - demonstrates that "virtually all" the nearest stars to the sun have planets orbiting them and some of these "could be like Earth".

Image issued by the University of Hertfordshire of hot super-Earth, Gliese 411b, one of the 60 new planets orbiting stars near the Earth's solar system which have been discovered by astronomers.

The results are based on almost 61,000 individual observations of 1,600 stars taken over a 20-year period by US astronomers using the Keck-I telescope in Hawaii.

The observations were part of the Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey, which was started in 1996 by astronomers Steve Vogt and Geoffrey Marcy from the University of California and Paul Butler, from the Carnegie Institute of Science, in Washington.

Dr Tuomi, who was the only European-based researcher working on the project and led analysis of the data, said: "It is fascinating to think that when we look at the nearest stars, all of them appear to have planets orbiting them.

"This is something astronomers were not convinced about, even as little as five years ago.

"These new planets also help us better understand the formation processes of planetary systems and provide interesting targets for future efforts to image the planets directly."

Dr Butler said: "This paper and data release is one of my crowning achievements as an astronomer. It represents a good chunk of my life's work."

The group's paper has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

Image issued by the University of Hertfordshire of a visualisation of red and blue shifts of starlight caused by a planet's gravitational pull, as astronomers have discovered 60 new planets orbiting stars near the Earth's solar system.


More in this Section

Watch: Hundreds of Zenit St Petersburg fans welcome team bus with flare salute

Hillsborough pitch like ‘battleground’ after crush, victim’s mother tells court

Judge to consider lifting ban on naming 16-year-old killer of Alesha MacPhail

Vatican summit on sex abuse focuses on accountability


Lifestyle

Toasting the Oscars? 6 award-winning wines to mark the occasion

Live music review: Chvrches play a blinder at the Olympia

7 ways to manage toddler tantrums, according to an expert

The unlikely leading man: Viggo Mortensen earned his Oscar nomination by being everything a movie star isn’t

More From The Irish Examiner