Planet hunters unveil massive catalog of strange worlds | Science & Technology

While thousands of planets have been discovered around other stars, relatively little is known about them. A NASA catalog featuring 126 exotic, newly discovered worlds includes detailed measurements that allow for comparisons with our own solar system.

The catalog details a fascinating mix of planet types beyond our solar system, from rare worlds with extreme environments to ones that could possibly support life.

The planets were analyzed by a large, international team of scientists using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in collaboration with the W.M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawai’i. They are described in today’s edition of The Astrophysical Journal Supplement.

“Relatively few of the previously known exoplanets have a measurement of both the mass and the radius. The combination of these measurements tell us what the planets could be made of and how they formed,” said Stephen Kane, UC Riverside astrophysicist and principal investigator of the TESS-Keck Survey.

“With this information, we can begin to answer questions about where our solar system fits in to the grand tapestry of other planetary systems,” Kane said.

The research team spent three years developing the catalog. They analyzed more than 13,000 radial velocity (RV) measurements to calculate the masses of 120 confirmed planets, plus six candidate planets, spread out over the northern sky.

Though the planets themselves aren’t visible, they do have a visible effect. As they orbit, the planets tug on their host stars, causing them to “wobble.” When the star moves toward a telescope, its visible light turns slightly bluer; when it moves away from us, the light shifts slightly redder.

This is much like how sound behaves. Due to the Doppler effect, a fire truck’s siren gets higher-pitched as it travels closer and sounds lower-pitched as it drives farther away.

“These RV measurements let astronomers detect and learn the properties of these exoplanetary systems. When we see a star…

Source www.sciencedaily.com

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