Mexico to seek small planets from San Pedro Mártir

NASA discovered 219 possible planets, of which 10 are Earth-sized and orbit a star at a distance that would allow water to exist if it were a rocky body
Photo courtesy of NASA
26/06/2017
14:30
Newsroom
Mexico City
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Doctors of the Institute of Astronomy of the National Autonomous University of Mexico UNAM, Yilén Gómez and Leticia Carigi, offered a conference where they talked about the 10 planets similar to the Earth discovered by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and they also informed about the project SAINT-EX, which is being developed at the observatory in San Pedro Mártir, Mexico, to discover small planets.

Yilén Gómez pointed out the difference between a confirmed planet and a candidate to develop life. She said that candidates, in the case of those discovered by the Kepler telescope, there is a measure of size, but details of the mass, the atmosphere and its surface are unknown.

NASA discovered 219 possible planets, of which 10 are Earth-sized and orbit a star at a distance that would allow water to exist if it were a rocky body.

Leticia Carigi said that "the exoplanets we are seeing are those that are most likely to develop life" and gave details about Kepler 452b and Kepler 22b, which are within their habitable zone, although it is unknown if they have an atmosphere or water and they are known to have a size similar to the earth and it's within their habitable zone.

On the other hand, Yilén Gómez reported that Mexico is also working on the search for small planets, mainly from the San Pedro Martyr Observatory, Baja California, managed by UNAM Institute of Astronomy. "We have a project called SAINT-EX, a telescope one meter in diameter, an initiative between Mexico and Switzerland, which aims at characterizing and searching for extrasolar planets. Its construction is expected this year and the first observations will likely take place in 2018", said Gómez.

She also explained that "what the new telescope is going to do is measure the brightness of stars to see when an exoplanet passes in front of it, I mean, it will make discoveries of exoplanets by means of the transit method, normally this is the way these celestial bodies are detected."

During the conference it was stated that the financing of the project will be carried out by international institutions and that, for now, the National Council for Science and Technology (Conacyt) in Mexico will not provide any money.

The main objective of searching for small exoplanets is to be able to study their different conditions and thus explain how the planets are formed and how they evolve throughout their life.

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