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Transiting exoplanet within 5 parsecs by 2018?
At a conference on exoplanets this morning (July 4th, 2016), it was announced that the planet HD 219134 c can be observed to transit the disk of its parent star. With this discovery, HD 219134 c ranks as the closest known transiting exoplanet.
This announcement seems unlikely to be met with much fanfare in the news media. NASA's Kepler Mission has discovered thousands of transiting planets, several of which are argued to be potentially habitable, and HD 219134 c, with its orbital period of 6.8 days, is anything but. It evokes nostalgia for the turn of the century, when the discovery of even a thoroughly uninhabitable transiting planet was headline news.
Transits are scientifically valuable because they enable direct measurements of planetary densities, and they impart clues about bulk and atmospheric compositions. Probing of exoplanetary atmospheres, however, requires bright parent stars. HD 219134, with its mere 6.55 parsec (21.4 light year) distance, is important in this regard because it appears ~10,000 times brighter than many of the host stars of the planets found by the Kepler Mission.
Is HD 219134 c the closest transiting exoplanet? At present, a total of 76 stars and brown dwarfs are known to lie within 5 parsecs (16.3 light years) of the Sun. This list of nearest solar neighbors has been growing as objects such as Luhman 16A and 16B -- currently #5 and #6 on the list -- are detected.
Prior to Dec. 31, 2017, will a transiting extrasolar planet orbiting a star or brown dwarf within 5 parsecs be announced in the peer-reviewed astronomical literature?
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