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.
New supermarket features no human cashiers, scheduled to open to public in early 2017
The organization cited missing letters in some words or mistakes in verses and punctuation in free Quran apps
The intervention in a Chinese company’s bid to buy German chip maker, Aixtron, comes after Chinese companies have spent billions to acquire technology in Europe and the United States.
Malware designed for cellphones are designed to steal email addresses and authentication data stored on the devices to access sensitive data from Gmail, Google Photos, Google Docs and other services, Check Point said.
Japan plans to build the world's fastest-known supercomputer as part of a government policy to get back Japan's mojo in the world of technology
The once-mighty Finnish company sold its device business to Microsoft in 2014, where phones were sold under the Lumia brand. But as Microsoft effectively exits the smartphone business, Nokia is set to return.
South Korea denied a request by Google to export digital-map date
Day after releasing new anti-harassment policies, company promotes ad for white supremacists
On trip to US, senior executives in tech industry tell investors of opportunities offered
Facebook today announced that it has purchased CrowdTangle, a 4-year-old tool that publishers use to track how content spreads around the ...
Moscow City Court has upheld a ruling to block the LinkedIn professional network website.
Neither Tesla nor Grohmann have offered details of how much money is to change hands with the Tesla purchase of Grohmann
The presidential election is being debated extensively in the world media. One of the most important topics of discussion is the effect of Google on the US election. Donald Trump has accused Google of manipulating the remaining weeks and hours are now left behind. Trump accused has Google of hiding negative search results about Clinton and showing Clinton ahead in the polls.
Overseas critics of the law have argued that Beijing's new cybersecurity law threatens to shut foreign technology companies out of various sectors deemed "critical", and includes data to be stored on servers located in China
A French teen has been given a suspended jail sentence for naming his wifi network after the terrorist group