World Bulletin / News Desk
A joint effort of citizen scientists and professional astronomers has led to the first reported case of a planet orbiting twin suns that in turn is orbited by a second distant pair of stars.
Aided by volunteers using the Planethunters.org website, a Yale-led international team of astronomers identified and confirmed discovery of the phenomenon, called a circumbinary planet in a four-star system.
Only six planets are known to orbit two stars, according to researchers, and none of these are orbited by distant stellar companions.
“Circumbinary planets are the extremes of planet formation,” said Meg Schwamb of Yale, lead author of a paper about the system presented Oct. 15 at the annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Reno, Nevada.
“The discovery of these systems is forcing us to go back to the drawing board to understand how such planets can assemble and evolve in these dynamically challenging environments.”
Dubbed PH1, the planet was first identified by citizen scientists participating in Planet Hunters, a Yale-led program that enlists members of the public to review astronomical data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft for signs of planets. It is the project’s first confirmed planet discovery.
The volunteers — Kian Jek of San Francisco and Robert Gagliano of Cottonwood, Arizona — spotted faint dips in light caused by the planet as it passed in front of its parent stars, a common method of finding extrasolar planets. Schwamb, a Yale postdoctoral researcher, led the team of professional astronomers that confirmed the discovery and characterized the planet, following observations from the Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. PH1 is a gas giant with a radius about 6.2 times that of Earth, making it a bit bigger than Neptune.
"Planet Hunters is a symbiotic project, pairing the discovery power of the people with follow-up by a team of astronomers,” said Debra Fischer, a professor of astronomy at Yale and planet expert who helped launch Planet Hunters in 2010. “This unique system might have been entirely missed if not for the sharp eyes of the public."
An artist's illustration of PH1, a planet discovered by volunteers from the Planet Hunters citizen science project. PH1, shown in the foreground, is a circumbinary planet and orbits two suns. (Image by Haven Giguere/Yale)
PH1 orbits outside the 20-day orbit of a pair of eclipsing stars that are 1.5 and 0.41 times the mass of the Sun. It revolves around its host stars roughly every 138 days. Beyond the planet’s orbit at about 1000 AU (roughly 1000 times the distance between Earth and the Sun) is a second pair of stars orbiting the planetary system.
“The thousands of people who are involved with Planet Hunters are performing a valuable service,” said coauthor Jerome Orosz, who earned his Ph.D. at Yale in 1996 and is now associate professor of astronomy at San Diego State University. “Many of the automated techniques used to find interesting features in the Kepler data don't always work as efficiently as we would like. The hard work of the Planet Hunters helps ensure that important discoveries are not falling through the cracks."
The research was supported by NASA and the National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowship.
Apple denied creating any “back doors” for intelligence agencies.
The fetuses’ heart rates were monitored at 32, 33 and 34 weeks as they listened to a recording of a female stranger recite the rhyme.
On July 23, 2012, the Sun experienced the most powerful in 150 years, NASA revealed on Wednesday.
Tech giant Apple reported Tuesday a 6 percent increase to $37.4 billion in quarterly revenue after selling 35.2 million iPhones.
The total number of online access devices projected to rise to 50 billion in 2020 and 100 billion in 2030.
Tasmania is currently the only Australian state that bans genetically modified food crops and animal feed.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein said Friday he had authorized a warrant to be served on Google Inc for the emails of an unnamed individual who is the target of a money laundering investigation.
The freighter was loaded with more than 3,660 pounds (1,660 kg) of food, science equipment and supplies for the space station, a $100 billion research laboratory
The remains include two Tyrannosaurus bataar skeletons, a fossilized egg and a well-preserved 'nest' of several Oviraptor skeletons.
The MindRDR software monitors high levels of concentration, allowing users to take photographs and post it online without even having to move.
Angara rockets are a key to President Vladimir Putin's effort to reform a once-pioneering space industry hobbled after years of budget cuts and a brain drain in the 1990s.
It is hoped that by 2040 drones will be able to use 3D printers to print out mini-drones and repair themselves.
Russian Presidnt Vladimir Putin denied he was restricting web freedoms, saying his main concern was protecting children from indecent content.
Producing stem cells has become fast, easy, and inexpensive.
It's believed that a collision of two asteroids out in space caused a shower of meteors to rain down on Earth during the Ordovician Period some 470 million years ago.
Scientists discovered that wild chimps communicate 19 specific messages to one another with a “lexicon” of 66 gestures.