Data provided by Nasa’s Kepler space telescope has helped citizen scientists to discover a new exoplanet that is half the size of Earth.

The new planet, K2-288Bb, is situated 226 light-years away in the constellation Taurus and a stellar system called K2-288, which features a pair of dim, cool M-type stars separated by nearly 5.1 billion miles.

Half the size of Neptune, K2-288Bb currently circles around the smaller, dimmer star every 31.3 days.

The surface of the planet could be rocky or filled with gas such as Neptune.

Discussing the discovery, University of Chicago graduate student Adina Feinstein said: “It’s a very exciting discovery due to how it was found, its temperate orbit and because planets of this size seem to be relatively uncommon.”

The discovery of K2-288Bb follows an internship programme that saw the participation of Feinstein and University of North Carolina Asheville undergraduate student Makennah Bristow. Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center astrophysicist Joshua Schlieder led the programme.

“It’s a very exciting discovery due to how it was found, its temperate orbit and because planets of this size seem to be relatively uncommon.”

During the internship, the participants assessed Kepler data to find evidence of transits, which is the regular dimming of a star when an orbiting planet moves across the star’s face.

Should Boeing be bailed out?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Following the assessment of data from Kepler’s K2 mission, the participants found two likely planetary transits in the system.

However, the team had to wait until May 2017 to notice the third transit to confirm the discovery of K2-288Bb.

The team started follow-up observations with the help of Nasa’s Spitzer Space Telescope, the Keck II telescope at the W M Keck Observatory and Nasa’s Infrared Telescope Facility.

They also examined data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission.

Nasa’s Kepler helped discover 2,600 confirmed planets around other stars during the course of its nine-year mission. The agency decommissioned the mission after Kepler ran out of fuel in October last year.