Jupiter-like planet discovered by NASA volunteer citizen scientist
A citizen scientist has discovered a gas giant planet about 379 light-years from Earth, orbiting a star with the same mass as the Sun, NASA has announced.
Did you know you can help NASA spot planets around distant stars?
—NASA (@NASA) January 14, 2022
The exoplanet, called TOI-2180 b, was discovered in data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
TOI-2180 b is almost three times more massive than Jupiter but has the same diameter, which means it is denser than Jupiter. This has led scientists to wonder if it formed in a different way from Jupiter.
Additionally, through computer models, the team determined that the new planet could have up to 105 Earth masses of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium.
“That’s a lot. It’s more than we suspect inside Jupiter,” said Paul Dalba, an astronomer at the University of California, Riverside and lead author of the study.
The Jupiter-sized planet is special for astronomers because its year of 261 days is long compared to many known gas giants outside our solar system.
With an average temperature of around 170 degrees Fahrenheit, TOI-2180 b is also hotter than ambient on Earth, and hotter than the outer planets of our solar system, including Jupiter and Saturn.
But compared to the range of giant transiting exoplanets that astronomers have found orbiting other stars, TOI-2180 b is abnormally cold, NASA said.
The result, published in the Astronomical Journal, also suggests that the planet is just slightly further from its star than Venus is from the Sun.
To track the planet, professional astronomers and citizen scientists have engaged in “a united global effort.”
Using TESS data, the scientists looked for changes in the brightness of nearby stars, which indicated the presence of orbiting planets.
“The discovery and publication of TOI-2180 b was a great group effort demonstrating that professional astronomers and seasoned citizen scientists can work together successfully,” said Tom Jacobs of Bellevue, Wash., a former Navy officer. American who discovered the exoplanet.
While professional astronomers use algorithms to automatically scan tens of thousands of data points from stars, these citizen scientists use a program called LcTools, to inspect telescope data with the naked eye.
On February 1, 2020, Jacobs noticed a plot showing that starlight from TOI-2180 fades by less than half a percent and then returns to its previous level of brightness over a 24-hour period, which may be explained by an orbiting planet that is said to be acetransiting” as it passes in front of the star from our vantage point, NASA said.
With 27 hours of observations spread over more than 500 days, the team measured how much light fades as the planet passes. This helped scientists estimate the size of the planet and its density.
The team wanted to observe the transit of the planet when it returned to confirm the orbit, but they couldn’t.
The lack of a clear detection put a limit on the duration of the orbit, indicating a period of about 261 days.
Using this estimate, they predict that TESS will see the planet transit its star again in February 2022, NASA said.
(With IANS entries)