Surprise discovery announcement at the Exoplanet UpRising workshop!
In a dramatic change in schedule, Fieffe Menteur, a junior researcher at the French Academy for Keplerian Exoplanets broke embargo and revealed the first discovery of a habitable exoplanet!
The object, tentatively named Matsya seems to be a warm Super-Ganymede, orbiting a Warm Giant Planet, tentatively named Navistan in the habitable zone of a K3VIz star HD234789 – to be announced as CoRoT-26bc, aka KOI-13bc (according to NASA anyway) in a pair of joint papers to appear in a journal of Science today.
Matsya was seen in micromagnitude z’-band photometry of the transits of Navistan during MOST followups of the original discovery and has a radius of 1.101001 Earth radii and is estimated at 7 Mars masses in an orbit of 7.15455296 days around Navistan.
The star is only 3.8 lightyears away, is visible as a vivid blood red star in the deep southern sky, known there as Gangurru.
Preliminary mass estimates, using a combination of transit timing variations and radial velocity measurements from the CYCLOPS Near Infrared Spectrograph at the west Gemini telescope put Navistan at 0.8 jupiter masses in a 91.25 day orbit around Gangurru. With a radius of 1.314 jupiter radii, Navistan most resembles a large ball of carved, painted styrofoam.
Imaging with the Cooled Planet Imager at the Arizona super huge Interferometric Telescope shows a distinct blue tint to Navistan, consistent with a radiatively conservative atmosphere with high methane concentration; time resolved velocity offest spectra shows a weak signal of methane, cyanogen and octane, consistent in phase and offset with Matsya’s orbit.
There are hints of 256Ub* (IV) absorption lines in the spectra, as spotted by a sharp eyed Italian professor at the talk. NASA officials promptly stopped all further discussion, and have sequestered the workshop attendees, pending availability of a C-130J transport to take us to a secure location (sounds nice, semi-tropical we are told), but they forgot about the trick of tethering an iPhone to a laptop, so I’m still blogging it, embargo or not!
(Direct cell phone calls from UCSB are only possible to The Valley currently, since most of the ATT cell phone towers burned down in the Jesusita fire. As ATT officials explain, that is where 99.2% off all outbound calls from UCSB go anyway, so what else do they need?)
Preliminary rapid followup data from the SKA Pathfinder show pulsed coherent radio emission in the K-band coming from Gangurru. Fermi observations have also shown intermittent γ-ray and x-ray flashes from the general vicinity of Gangurru, and there are plans to reactivate the Vela network of high energy space detectors to further monitor and localize these.
In related developments, NASA has put out a new RFP under Exploration Development for Valkyrie Mk III class spacecraft for future lines of exploration, designed to carry the Conquest class surface landers, man-rated.
Development of Pu-238 breeders for deep space flight technology has been accelerated, and negotiations at the State level have begun with Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire to convert the newly operational Le Grand Collisionneur de Hadrons to mass manufacture of anti-deuterium ice to power the Mk III engines.
Image of Matsya with Navistan in the background, from the C-PI at SHIT.
NASA delegation meets with its ESA counterparts to discuss priority in the Matsya discovery announcement.