SpaceJibe

December 4, 2008

Unique Extrasolar Planet Orbits Fast-rotating Hot Star

Filed under: Exoplanets — bferrari @ 5:56 pm

ScienceDaily (Dec. 4, 2008) — Three undergraduate students, from Leiden University in the Netherlands, have discovered an extrasolar planet. The extraordinary find, which turned up during their research project, is about five times as massive as Jupiter. This is also the first planet discovered orbiting a fast-rotating hot star.

Artists impression of the planet OGLE-TR-L9b. Circling its host star in about 2.5 days, it lies at only three percent of the Earth-Sun distance from its star, making the planet very hot with a bloated roiling atmosphere. The star itself is the hottest star with a planet ever discovered. (ESO/H. Zodet)

Artist's impression of the planet OGLE-TR-L9b. Circling its host star in about 2.5 days, it lies at only three percent of the Earth-Sun distance from its star, making the planet very hot with a bloated roiling atmosphere. The star itself is the hottest star with a planet ever discovered. (ESO/H. Zodet)

The students were testing a method of investigating the light fluctuations of thousands of stars in the OGLE database in an automated way. The brightness of one of the stars was found to decrease for two hours every 2.5 days by about one percent. Follow-up observations, taken with ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, confirmed that this phenomenon is caused by a planet passing in front of the star, blocking part of the starlight at regular intervals.

According to Ignas Snellen, supervisor of the research project, the discovery was a complete surprise. “The project was actually meant to teach the students how to develop search algorithms. But they did so well that there was time to test their algorithm on a so far unexplored database. At some point they came into my office and showed me this light curve. I was completely taken aback!”

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