Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .




EXO WORLDS
Three New Planets and a Mystery Object Discovered Outside Our Solar System
by Katrina Voss
University Park PA (SPX) Oct 28, 2011


Three planets - each orbiting its own giant, dying star - have been discovered by an international research team led by Alex Wolszczan, an Evan Pugh Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State, using the Hobby-Eberly Telescope. Penn State is a major partner in the design, construciton, and operation of this telescope, which is one of the largest in the world. In 1992, Wolszczan became the first astronomer ever to discover planets outside our solar system. Credit: Marty Harris/McDonald Obs./UT-Austin

Three planets - each orbiting its own giant, dying star - have been discovered by an international research team led by a Penn State University astronomer. Using the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, astronomers observed the planets' parent stars - called HD 240237, BD +48 738, and HD 96127 - tens of light years away from our solar system.

One of the massive, dying stars has an additional mystery object orbiting it, according to team leader Alex Wolszczan, an Evan Pugh Professor of

Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State, who, in 1992, became the first astronomer ever to discover planets outside our solar system. The new research is expected to shed light on the evolution of planetary systems around dying stars. It also will help astronomers to understand how metal content influences the behavior of dying stars.

The research will be published in December in the Astrophysical Journal. The first author of the paper is Sara Gettel, a graduate student from Penn State's Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and the paper is co-authored by three graduate students from Poland.

The three newly-discovered planetary systems are more evolved than our own solar system. "Each of the three stars is swelling and has already become a red giant - a dying star that soon will gobble up any planet that happens to be orbiting too close to it," Wolszczan said.

"While we certainly can expect a similar fate for our own Sun, which eventually will become a red giant and possibly will consume our Earth, we won't have to worry about it happening for another five-billion years." Wolszczan also said that one of the massive, dying stars - BD +48 738 - is accompanied not only by an enormous, Jupiter-like planet, but also by a second, mystery object.

According to the team, this object could be another planet, a low-mass star, or - most interestingly - a brown dwarf, which is a star-like body that is intermediate in mass between the coolest stars and giant planets.

"We will continue to watch this strange object and, in a few more years, we hope to be able to reveal its identity," Wolszczan said.

The three dying stars and their accompanying planets have been particularly useful to the research team because they have helped to illuminate such ongoing mysteries as how dying stars behave depending on their metallicity.

"First, we know that giant stars like HD 240237, BD +48 738, and HD 96127 are especially noisy. That is, they appear jittery, because they oscillate much more than our own, much-younger Sun. This noisiness disturbs the observation process, making it a challenge to discover any companion planets," Wolszczan said.

"Still, we persevered and we eventually were able to spot the planets orbiting each massive star."

Once Wolszczan and his team had confirmed that HD 240237, BD +48 738, and HD 96127 did indeed have planets orbiting around them, they measured the metal content of the stars and found some interesting correlations.

"We found a negative correlation between a star's metallicity and its jitteriness. It turns out that the less metal content each star had, the more noisy and jittery it was," Wolszczan explained. "Our own Sun vibrates slightly too, but because it is much younger, its atmosphere is much less turbulent."

Wolszczan also pointed out that, as stars swell to the red-giant stage, planetary orbits change and even intersect, and close-in planets and moons eventually get swallowed and sucked up by the dying star. For this reason, it is possible that HD 240237, BD +48 738, and HD 96127 once might have had more planets in orbit, but that these planets were consumed over time.

"It's interesting to note that, of these three newly-discovered stars, none has a planet at a distance closer than 0.6 astronomical units - that is, 0.6 the distance of the Earth to our Sun," Wolszczan said. "It might be that 0.6 is the magic number at which any closer distance spells a planet's demise."

Observations of dying stars, their metal content, and how they affect the planets around them could provide clues about the fate of our own solar system.

"Of course, in about five-billion years, our Sun will become a red giant and likely will swallow up the inner planets and the planets' accompanying moons.

However, if we're still around in, say, one-billion to three-billion years, we might consider taking up residence on Jupiter's moon, Europa, for the remaining couple billion years before that happens," Wolszczan said.

"Europa is an icy wasteland and it is certainly not habitable now, but as the Sun continues to heat up and expand, our Earth will become too hot, while at the same time, Europa will melt and may spend a couple billion years in the Goldilocks zone - not to hot, not to- old, covered by vast, beautiful oceans."

Penn State's Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds is organizing a conference in January 2012 to discuss planets and their dying stars.

The conference will be held in Puerto Rico and is scheduled to take place at exactly 20 years from when Wolszczan used the 1,000-foot Arecibo radiotelescope to detect three planets orbiting a rapidly spinning neutron star - the very first discovery of planets outside our solar system.

This discovery opened the door to the current intense era of planet hunting by suggesting that planet formation could be quite common throughout the universe and that planets can form around different types of stellar objects. More information about the conference is online.

In addition to Wolszczan and Gettel at Penn State, other members of the research team include Andrzej Niedzielski and Gracjan Maciejewski; and three graduate students, Grzegorz Nowak, Monika Adamow, and Pawel Zielinski, who are all from Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland.

.


Related Links
Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State
Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds
Nicolaus Copernicus University
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





EXO WORLDS
Dwarf planet sized up accurately as it blocks light of faint star
Paris (ESO) Oct 27, 2011
Astronomers have accurately measured the diameter of the faraway dwarf planet Eris for the first time by catching it as it passed in front of a faint star. This event was seen at the end of 2010 by telescopes in Chile, including the Belgian TRAPPIST telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory. The observations show that Eris is an almost perfect twin of Pluto in size. Eris appears to have a ve ... read more


EXO WORLDS
Lunar Probe to search for water on Moon

Subtly Shaded Map of Moon Reveals Titanium Treasure Troves

NASA's Moon Twins Going Their Own Way

Titanium treasure found on Moon

EXO WORLDS
Opportunity Past 21 Miles of Driving! Will Spend Winter at Cape York

Scientists develope new way to determine when water was present on Mars and Earth

Mars Rover Carries Device for Underground Scouting

Mars Landing-Site Specialist

EXO WORLDS
NASA's NEEMO Mission Ending Early Due To Hurricane Rina

Explorer 1 The First US Explorer

NASA evacuates astronauts from deep-sea training

Is Your Space Elevator Going Up

EXO WORLDS
China to launch Shenzhou-8 early November

China plans space lab docking

Living on Tiangong

Thousands of dreams to fly on Shenzhou 8

EXO WORLDS
Russian Space Agency names next crew to ISS

ISS orbit readjusted by 3 km

Expedition 30 to ISS could be launched on Dec 21

ISS could be used for satellite assembly until 2028

EXO WORLDS
NASA to launch weather-climate satellite Friday

Weather Favorable for NPP Launch

Vega arrives at French Guiana in preparation for its January 26 inaugural launch

SpaceX Completes Key Milestone to Fly Astronauts to International Space Station

EXO WORLDS
Three New Planets and a Mystery Object Discovered Outside Our Solar System

Dwarf planet sized up accurately as it blocks light of faint star

Herschel Finds Oceans of Water in Disk of Nearby Star

UH Astronomer Finds Planet in the Process of Forming

EXO WORLDS
Reversing course, Hewlett-Packard to keep PC unit

Video game makers ready barrage of blockbusters

RIM stock suffers on new tablet software stall

Wearable depth-sensing projection system makes any surface capable of multitouch interaction




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement