Research

Planets around other stars like peas in a pod

Planets around other stars like peas in a pod

These planets are mostly located between 1,000 and 4,000 light-years away from Earth.

Once it was enough to find planets outside our Solar System, but with thousands of exoplanets confirmed, it's now possible to learn something about how they are organized.

It's called K2-138, where "K2" signifies that it was discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope during its K2 mission - an exoplanet-hunting mission that's been ongoing for the past three years. 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.

The alien worlds, all orbiting a Sun-like star located within the constellation Aquarius, are considered superEarths, sizing in at two to three times larger than our own planet, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the U.S. said. The group of five planets, all smaller than Neptune, was found by citizen scientists scouring data from NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, which measures light from distant stars. Astronomers have not yet searched through most of it for planets.

The only problem is that while the Solar System shows a similar grouping, the distances are far from regular.

According to Nasa, a new batch of 2017 Kepler data was recently uploaded to the Exoplanets Explorers.

The team used a popular citizen-scientist platform called Zooniverse to create its own project, dubbed Exoplanet Explorers.

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Users could then sift through actual light curves from the K2 mission and click "yes" or "no", depending on whether they thought the curve looked like a transit.

It was featured on a program called Stargazing Live on the Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). "We have each potential transit signal looked at by a minimum of 10 people, and each needs a minimum of 90 percent of "yes" votes to be considered for further characterization".

"We wanted to find a new classification that would be exciting to announce on the final night, so we were originally combing through the planet candidates to find a planet in the habitable zone-the region around a star where liquid water could exist", says Christiansen. "But those can take a while to validate, to make sure that it really is a real planet and not a false alarm".

And that's exactly what they did - detecting a star with four planets orbiting around it.

To gain a better understanding of this hypothesis, Weiss and her term are taking a closer look at Jupiter-like planets in multi-planet systems. Three of the four planets received "yes" votes from 100 per cent of participants, while the remaining planet got "yes" votes from 92 per cent.

The paper, which also mentions the possibility of a sixth exoplanet in K2-138, is titled "The K2-138 system: A Near-Resonant Chain of Five Sub-Neptune Planets Discovered by Citizen Scientists".

Citizen scientists have struck again. We need to find even more planets - and hopefully next time the planets will be a bit more. hospitable. The findings have also been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.


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