Australian Amateur Astronomers Discover Star System With Five Rocky Planets

Rodiano Bonacci
Gennaio 13, 2018

Struck proverbial gold, that is.

The Exoplanet Explorers citizen scientist project, the brainchild UC Santa Cruz astronomer Ian Crossfield and Caltech staff scientist Jessie Christiansen, began its search for new planets on crowdsourcing research platform Zooniverse. On the second night of the show, the researchers discussed the demographics of the planet candidates found so far-44 Jupiter-sized planets, 72 Neptune-sized, 44 Earth-sized, and 53 so-called Super Earth's, which are larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune.

Unlike our own solar system, which has planets orbiting the sun in an elliptical orbit, the exoplanets in K2-138 were found orbiting their sun-like star in concentric circles.

All five planets of K2-138 also appear to be in "resonance" - a configuration in which the size of each planet's orbit is a ratio of other planets' orbits. The discovery was announced this week at the 231st meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C. The findings have also been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.

Thousands of citizen scientists got to work on Kepler data in 2017 when Exoplanet Explorers launched.

They designed a training programme to first teach users what to look for in determining whether a signal is a planetary transit.

The K2 data was mostly light curves, showing the intensity of light from individual stars.

They used the W M Keck Observatory on Maunakea in Hawaii to obtain high-resolution spectra of 1,305 stars hosting 2,025 transiting planets originally discovered by Kepler. Users would look through the data, and indicate for each graph whether they thought the curve looked like a transit or not. An global team of scientists led by Université de Montréal astrophysicist Lauren Weiss has found that exoplanets revolving around the same star show a pattern of similar sizes and regular orbital spacing.

For the first time in history, a crowdsourced team of amateur citizen scientists has discovered a multi-planetary system.

"We put all this data online and said to the public, 'Help us find some planets.' It's exciting, because we're getting the public excited about science, and it's really leveraging the power of the human cloud. And the human eye in many cases is very effective in separating the planetary wheat from the nonplanetary chaff".

The researchers, including those at The California Institute of Technology in the U.S., say the credit for this planetary discovery goes mainly to the citizen scientists about 10,000 from the around the world.

"Some current theories suggest that planets form by a chaotic scattering of rock and gas and other material in the early stages of the planetary system's life", Christiansen said. "However, these theories are unlikely to result in such a closely packed, orderly system as K2-138", says Christiansen.

By focusing on 909 planets in 355 multi-planet system located between 1,000 and 4,000 light years away, the scientists were able to apply statistical analysis to the planets and their relationships to one another and two distinct patterns emerged.

Altre relazioniGrafFiotech

Discuti questo articolo

Segui i nostri GIORNALE