A week of planets

It has been a busy few days of planetary discoveries and this might be down to people saving announcements up for the AAS's Division for Planetary Sciences meeting (#dps12).

Yesterday saw the announcement of PH-1 as the first confirmed planet discovery by users of the Planet Hunters website. The planet is very interesting because it is in a 4 star system! It orbits a double star which is orbited by another pair of stars at 1000 AU distance. In our solar system that would put the second pair 20 times further away that the Kuiper Belt but not as far as the start of the the Oort Cloud. You can read about it in Meg Schwamb's paper.

Yesterday there was also a secret press conference about a discovery at ESO that was supposed to go public later today. However, someone in Croatia apparently broke the embargo last night so it is now public. The ESO announcement is of a planet found around our nearest star system. The planet orbits the star Alpha Centauri B every 3.2 days. As Alpha Centauri B is like our Sun, and the orbit is very close, the planet will be a very hot place to live. Paul Sutherland notes that it is probably tidally locked so there could be a big temperature range between the day and night sides. Having said that, the difference could be reduced if the planet managed to retain an atmosphere as that would transport heat around to the night side. Being the first planet found around the star it is currently named Alpha Centauri Bb (on Twitter it has been unofficially referred to as Bob and Bb King). It is exciting to have an exoplanet only 4 light years away. We could be there in only 116,000 years if we went at the speed of Apollo 11 (165,000 years at Shuttle speed).

In other planet news I saw via DPS (although it was first announced in September) is the discovery of planets in the Beehive Cluster using the 1.5-meter Tillinghast telescope at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory. The two planets - Pr0201b and Pr0211b - are the first planets found around Sun-like stars in a cluster. They are both massive planets that orbit very close to their parent stars. As Chris North says, given their location, it's just a shame they weren't discovered by the Wide Angle Search for Planets (SuperWASP).

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 17th Oct 2012 (11:16 BST) | Permalink
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]