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Students Find Jupiter-sized Oddball Planet

ScienceDaily (Apr. 22, 2009) -- A team of astronomers from University College London (UCL), including undergraduate students, have discovered that an exotic world passes directly in front of the Sun-like star it orbits, revealing for the first time that it is about the same size as Jupiter.

And rather than travelling to one of the major observatories in Hawaii or Chile, the students made the discovery with a telescope at UCL's University of London Observatory (ULO) in the capital's northern suburb of Mill Hill.

The work was partly funded by a grant from the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) and will be presented on Tuesday 21st April at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science conference by ULO astronomer Dr. Steve Fossey; Ingo Waldmann, a final-year undergraduate and David Kipping, a PhD student working in the field of exoplanet science.

The team were alerted by the exoplanet science website http://www.oklo.org, run by Greg Laughlin of the University of California Santa Cruz. Using infrared space observations, Greg predicted that a planet (HD 80606b) would pass in front of its parent star (HD 80606) in a so-called transit event.

On the evening of 13th February, prompted by his alert, Dr Fossey and five UCL undergraduate observers started monitoring the brightness of HD 80606, and some 10 hours later at just after 4 am they discovered they had found the planet's transit.


The planet, called HD80606b, is unusual in that it travels in a highly elliptical orbit about its parent star. At its furthest point, it is almost as far from its star as the Earth is from the Sun. But every 111 days it is briefly a scorching 10 times closer to its star than Mercury is to the Sun. A hypothetical observer above the cloud tops of the planet would see its parent star swell to 30 times the apparent size of the Sun in our own sky.

HD80606b now holds the record for both the longest orbital period and most eccentric orbit of all transiting planets and with such extreme variations in heating it presents a fascinating object for further study.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Wed Apr 22nd, 2009 at 02:49:58 PM EST
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I note highly elliptical orbints aren't that exceptional among the hot jupiters discovered in the past decade and half.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 23rd, 2009 at 04:49:47 AM EST
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That is an artifact of doppler detection methods as only a highly eccentric planet will produce a measurable wobble in the star's location.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 23rd, 2009 at 04:53:48 AM EST
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