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A multiplanet system of super-Earths orbiting the brightest red dwarf star GJ 887

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Science  26 Jun 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6498, pp. 1477-1481
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz0795

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A nearby multiplanet system

Exoplanets can interact gravitationally with other objects orbiting the same star, affecting their evolution and stability. Studying these effects requires locating systems with multiple planets. Monitoring the nearby red dwarf star GJ 887, Jeffers et al. detected periodic radial velocity signals, indicating the presence of two planets on orbits with periods of about 9 and 22 days and a further candidate planet (see the Perspective by Davies). The inclinations of the orbits are unknown, so only minimum masses could be determined, but those were consistent with both planets being super-Earths—more massive than Earth but less than Neptune. This system is only 3.3 parsecs from the Sun, which should facilitate follow-up with other techniques.

Science, this issue p. 1477; see also p. 1432

Abstract

The closet exoplanets to the Sun provide opportunities for detailed characterization of planets outside the Solar System. We report the discovery, using radial velocity measurements, of a compact multiplanet system of super-Earth exoplanets orbiting the nearby red dwarf star GJ 887. The two planets have orbital periods of 9.3 and 21.8 days. Assuming an Earth-like albedo, the equilibrium temperature of the 21.8-day planet is ~350 kelvin. The planets are interior to, but close to the inner edge of, the liquid-water habitable zone. We also detect an unconfirmed signal with a period of ~50 days, which could correspond to a third super-Earth in a more temperate orbit. Our observations show that GJ 887 has photometric variability below 500 parts per million, which is unusually quiet for a red dwarf.

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