This morning, I awoke to an inbox full of indications that there was indeed plenty of drama in the club.
From one of our correspondents:
He threw out dozens of new systems, very graphically, on slips of paper, like playing cards, floating down on a pile on the screen. Very dramatic. But no HD numbers on those slips!
He predicts 1 to 1.5 Earth sensitivity by around 2010 (extrapolating a trend).
He has been monitoring about 400 FGK slow rotators since 2004, with HARPS.
Can do 0.5 m/s today, 0.1 m/s in near future.
Noise sources are astroseismology, which settles to about 0.1 m/s after 15 minutes of integration, and a worse one, star spots, which settle to about 0.5 m/s after 15 minutes but do not drop lower, even though theory says level should drop to about 0.1 m/s.
He says he has 40 new candidates in the 30-50 day period range, and mass less than 30 Earths.
Nevertheless, after the drama, he did report 3 Neptune-type systems, all focused on the Super Earth theme of the meeting.
The centerpiece was definitely HD 40307, a deep southern K2.5 V star only 40 light years distant, with a metallicity roughly half that of the Sun. It has three detected planets, with Msin(i)’s of 4.2, 6.9, and 9.2 Earth masses, and corresponding periods of 4.31, 9.62, and 20.45 days. It’s fascinating that these planets are close to, but aren’t actually in a 4:2:1 resonance. This is really a remarkable detection.
With 40 candidates in the pocket, the Geneva team does, however, seem to be keeping some of their powder dry, perhaps in anticipation of a low-mass transit. Here’s a link to the ESO press release, which has triggered 93 news articles and counting.
In the press release image, HD 40307d is definitely all that and a bag of chips. Puffy white clouds, azure seas, continents, soft off-stage lighting…