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Giant planet orbiting a small star find stuns scientists: NGTS Survey

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London, Nov 1,2017: An international team of astronomers has found a gas giant the size of Jupiter orbiting a star half the size of the Sun, a discovery that challenges theories of planet formation which state that a planet of this size could not be formed by such a small star.

This unusual planet, NGTS-1b, is the largest planet compared to the size of its companion star ever discovered in the universe, according to the study to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“The discovery of NGTS-1b was a complete surprise to us — such massive planets were not thought to exist around such small stars,” said lead author of the research Daniel Bayliss from the University of Warwick in England.

According to existing theories of planet formation, small stars can readily form rocky planets but do not gather enough material together to form Jupiter-sized planets.

The planet NGTS-1b which is six hundred light years away from Earth is a hot Jupiter, at least as large as the Jupiter in our solar system, but with around 20 per cent less mass.

It is very close to its star — just three per cent of the distance between Earth and the Sun – and orbits the star every 2.6 days, meaning a year on NGTS-1b lasts two and a half days.

The temperature on the gassy planet is approximately 530 degrees Celsius, or 800 kelvin.

The researchers spotted the planet using the Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) – a wide-field observing facility made of a compact ensemble of telescopes, designed to search for transiting planets on bright stars – run by the Universities of Warwick, Leicester, Cambridge, Queen’s University Belfast, Observatoire de Genève, DLR Berlin and Universidad de Chile.

The planet orbits a red M-dwarf — the most common type of star in the universe, leading to the possibility that there could be more of these planets waiting to be found by the NGTS survey.(IANS)

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Astronomers building small space telescope to explore nearby stars

The telescope uses a mirror system with coatings optimized for ultraviolet light. Together with the camera, the system can measure very small changes in the brightness of M dwarf stars to carry out the primary science of the mission.

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The name of the stars which astronomers will study are called M-Dwarfs. Pixabay
The name of the stars which astronomers will study are called M-Dwarfs. Pixabay
  • Astronomers are building a space telescope to study the nearby stars.
  • the telescope will be small along with a camera attached to it.
  • Studying these nearby stars will help astronomers help study the way planets orbit around the stars.

Astronomers are in the process of building a small space telescope to explore the flares and sunspots of small nearby stars to assess how habitable the space environment is for planets orbiting them.

The telescope with a diameter of 9 centimetres, or 3.6 inches, will be fitted on a spacecraft known as the Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat, or SPARCS to be launched in 2021, to focus on stars that are small, dim and cool by comparison to the sun.

Astronomers through this feat will be able study the path of planets.
Astronomers through this feat will be able study the path of planets.

These stars — known as M dwarfs — are less than half the sun’s size and temperature and they shine with barely one per cent of its brightness.

The telescope will be built alongside a camera with two ultraviolet (UV)-sensitive detectors to be optimised for observations using UV light, which strongly affects the planet’s atmosphere and its potential to harbour life on the surface.

“People have been monitoring M dwarfs as best they can in visible light. But the stars’ strongest flares occur mainly in the ultraviolet, which Earth’s atmosphere mostly blocks,” said Evgenya Shkolnik, Assistant Professor at the Arizona State University.

Although the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope can view stars at ultraviolet wavelengths unhindered, its overcrowded observing schedule would let it dedicate only the briefest of efforts to M dwarfs.

Telescope can view stars at ultraviolet wavelengths unhindered. Wikimedia Commons
Telescope can view stars at ultraviolet wavelengths unhindered. Wikimedia Commons

The telescope uses a mirror system with coatings optimized for ultraviolet light. Together with the camera, the system can measure very small changes in the brightness of M dwarf stars to carry out the primary science of the mission.

M dwarfs are exceedingly common that they make up three-quarters of all the stars in our Milky Way galaxy as well as nearly 40 billion rocky planets in habitable zones around these stars, meaning that most of the habitable-zone planets in our galaxy orbit M dwarfs.

Capturing lengthy observations of M dwarfs will let astronomers study how stellar activity affects planets that orbit the star. IANS