A University of Florida astronomer is among more than three dozen astronomers who found the new large planets, announced today at the Transiting Extrasolar Planets Workshop at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.
Stephen Kane, a UF postdoctoral associate, said he and his colleagues pinpointed the planets by detecting the slight dimming of starlight that occurs when the planets pass in front of their stars. Of about 200 planets discovered so far, the new planets are only the 13th and 14th to be found using this technique, called the transit method. But that’s likely to change quickly as the United Kingdom-based effort to discover planets with the transit method gathers steam, Kane said.
“We can expect these two planets to be the first in a wave of a whole lot of these new types of planets,” he said.
Known as “Hot Jupiters” because of their Jupiter-like size and temperature, the new planets are so close to their stars that they complete their orbit in a mere two and two-and-one-half days, respectively. That compares to 88 days for Mercury, the planet with the fastest orbit nearest the sun in our solar system. The very close orbit also means that the new planets are hotter than Mercury, which has a surface temperature of 752 degrees Fahrenheit. The planets are estimated to have a temperature of at least 3,272 degrees.
There is also evidence that the solar radiation from the stars is so intense that it is whipping away their atmospheres. “Hot Jupiters are assumed to have a significantly reduced lifetime due to their proximity to the star,” Kane said.
Most planets outside our solar system have been found using the radial velocity method, which measures the gravitational wobble in the star induced by the orbiting planet. The transit method would seem at first to be impractical because it requires a lucky break: The orbital plane of the planets under observation must be aligned toward Earth so astronomers can see the starlight dim as the planets pass.
The astronomers who discovered the two new planets dealt with this complication through, in Kane’s words, “brute force.” The astronomers surveyed millions of stars using twin telescopes snapping photos of the southern and northern skies from La Palma in Spain’s Canary Islands and Sutherland, South Africa. Each telescope is equipped with eight wide-angle cameras, each of which has a field of view of eight degrees, which comprises a relatively large chunk of the sky. By comparison, the full moon comprises about half a degree.
The work was done through UK’s leading planet detection program, a consortium of eight universities called SuperWASP, or Wide Angle Search for Planets.
Kane’s role in the research was to help pick out from the vast numbers of photographed stars the most likely candidates for further investigation. The job was a difficult one because planets passing in front of stars only slightly diminish the starlight, dimming it by only about 1 percent for just a few hours. Kane also led the research on the prototype for SuperWASP, and has worked on both SuperWASP telescopes, among other efforts.
“We have computer programs which are able to search all of these light curves from the stars and see if there’s something in them which looks like the star has become fainter for a short period, but it’s a complicated task,” Kane said.
After SuperWASP identified the tiny dips in starlight caused when the planets passed in front of their stars, a French-built instrument detected a slight wobble in each star’s motion as the planets passed around them, confirming the existence of the planets.
The planets are located in the constellations Andromeda and Delphinius, respectively. The Andromeda planet is more than 1,000 light years away, while the Delphinius planet is 500 light years away.
Both of the new planets are far too hot to support life. But Kane said their discovery adds to growing knowledge about how planets form, which should help astronomers understand and zero in on Earth-like planets.
“Once we understand planet formation, we’ll understand a lot more about how terrestrial planets form as well,” he said.
APEX takes a glimpse into the heart of darkness
25.05.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie
First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-IR
24.05.2018 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences