Astronomers have discovered more than 50 new exoplanets, including 16 super—Earths, one of which orbits at the edge of the habitable zone of its star, thanks to ESO’s world—leading exoplanet hunter HARPS.
By studying the properties of all the HARPS planets found so far, the team has found that about 40 percent of stars similar to the sun have at least one planet lighter than Saturn.
The HARPS spectrograph on the 3.6—meter telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile is the world’s most successful planet finder. The discovery by HARPS team, led by Michel Mayor (University of Geneva, Switzerland), is the largest number of such planets ever announced at one time.
"The harvest of discoveries from HARPS has exceeded all expectations and includes an exceptionally rich population of super—Earths and Neptune—type planets hosted by stars very similar to our Sun. And even better - the new results show that the pace of discovery is accelerating,” said Mayor.
In the eight years since it started surveying stars like the sun using the radial velocity technique, HARPS has been used to discover more than 150 new planets.
The new findings are being presented at a conference on Extreme Solar Systems where 350 exoplanet experts are meeting in Wyoming, USA.