Jaymie Matthews Rocks On in Space

Jaymie Matthews Rocks On in Space

Department of Physics and Astronomy | Faculty of Science
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It’s said there are no new worlds to discover. The antipodes, the poles, east, west, north south; there’s nothing new under the sky.

Until you look up, way, up and beyond.

Just ask UBC astronomer Jaymie Matthews, mission scientist with Canada’s first space telescope and a key player in the discovery of a truly new world: a rare, rocky ‘exoplanet’ orbiting a star far beyond our solar system.

Most exoplanets discovered so far are gaseous giants, Jupiter-size monsters. Matthews’s discovery is a ‘Super Earth’ about 2.5 times the diameter of our home planet, 12 times the mass, located 180 light years away in the Alpha Centuri system and prosaically dubbed HIP 116454 b.

The NASA Kepler space telescope had earlier caught the tiny, telltale dimming of the parent star as the exoplanet made its orbital transit but Kepler couldn’t backtrack to confirm it. But armed with Canada’s Microvariability and Oscillations of Stars (MOST) satellite, Matthews and his team went hunting and snagged it.

If life (and intelligence) is ever discovered ‘out there’, it’ll likely be on a rocky world in its parent star’s ‘Goldilocks’ zone where liquid water can be found. Although HIP 116454 b is a ‘hot rock’ and orbits too close to its sun to be habitable, Matthews says there could be other, more friendly worlds in that same distant solar system:

“This Super-Earth may have neighbours, and one might be in the star’s habitable zone. Only time and careful study of this system will tell.”

Discoverer of new worlds? It’s a matter of perspective.

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Artist’s conception of new exoplanet. Credit: Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.

A UBC astronomer who doubles as a mission scientist with Canada's first space telescope is a key player in the discovery of a new exoplanet, out beyond our solar system.