Small exoplanet mass 254 light-years away measured with unprecedented precision

A new extrasolar planet has been analyzed thanks to the NASA Kepler space telescope that does not want to know how to retire. This planet turns out to be the one for which the mass has been identified in a more precise way than any other exoplanet so small, at least until today. The same researcher who carried out the measurement, Aaron Hamann, first author of the study, declares that it was a “completely unexpected” thing.

There is talk of a “record precision” allowed precisely by the ways in which this planet, along with another, revolves around its star. The first time Kepler scoured the K2-146 star, located 258 light-years away from us, the scientists noticed an irregular darkening pattern. We talk about the darkening caused by the passage of the planet in front of the star from our point of view, which allows us to implement the so-called “transit method,” one of the most used to discover planets beyond the solar system.

Comparing the data of the first passage with those of the second and third, always identified by Kepler years later, the scientists understood that this irregularity was caused by a second smaller planet that pulled the first planet by gravitational force. Every time they approached, a sort of “mini slingshot effect” was created, as reported by Hamann himself.

If this strong gravitational bond between the two planets is added that the two planets orbit around their star in a few days (3.99 days for the largest and 2.66 days for the smallest), there is also a strong effect on the orbit so much that sometimes they can have significantly shorter or longer years: “It would be as if your birthday sometimes arrived almost a month before or later than you would normally expect,” reports the researcher to cite a case in point.

Kepler also observed the planets in key points during the transits: they were basically caught at the right time at the moment of transit, always from our point of view, in front of their star. In this way, they measured the mass of the smallest planet with an accuracy of 3%.


Children born to older parents tend to have fewer behavior problems

According to a study conducted by researchers from various Dutch institutes, children who are born to those parents who are older than average are more likely to have no particular behavior problems.

The study, which appeared in Child Development, describes the results that the researchers achieved by analyzing data on 32,892 Dutch children aged 10 to 12 years. The problematic behavior was evaluated based on the statements of the father, mother, teachers and children themselves through a series of standard tool questionnaires. Children belonged to various social strata and to families of various socio-economic levels.

The results showed that the children of older parents showed less externalizing behavior problems and that the age of the parents did not seem particularly related to the problems of behavior of internalization of the children.

Dorret Boomsma, professor of biological psychology and behavioral genetics and one of the authors of the study explains the results: “It is possible that some of the reasons why older parents have children with minor problems such as aggression is that older parents have more resources and higher levels of education. But it is important to note that the higher average education level of older parents does not completely explain the reduced levels of outsourcing problems in their children.”

According to the researchers, therefore, parents should not worry too much about any harmful effects on having a child at an advanced age. The research was carried out by researchers from the University of Utrecht, the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, the Erasmus Medical Center and the University Medical Center Groningen.