The newly discovered exoplanet is a real explosion of the past.
Astronomers have just confirmed the existence of KOI-5Ab, which was first identified as a potential planet by NASA’s pioneering company Kepler Space Telescope back in 2009
The Elusive Alien World was the second “candidate” ever identified by Kepler to hunt for planets in two different missions. from 2009 to 2018. Kepler uses the “transit method” to notice the treacherous declines in brightness caused when extraterrestrial worlds intersect the faces of their host stars in terms of the spaceship.
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This work was incredibly productive. Almost two-thirds of about 4,300 known exoplanets were discovered by Kepler and analyzes of the telescope’s vast data set continue to reveal new findings.
KOI-5Ab slipped through the cracks more than a decade ago, in part as a result of this data flow. Kepler’s team noticed an obvious transit signal belonging to a planet about the size of Neptune, which beat around a sun star every five Earth days. This star and visible planet are located about 1,800 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Cygnus.
But further investigation revealed that the parent star has another star, which makes the analyzes significantly more difficult. And there were many other candidates for a veterinarian.
So the KOI-5Ab “was quickly abandoned, mostly because it became more complicated,” said David Kiardi, chief scientist at NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute, which is housed at the Center for Infrared Processing and Analysis at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. during a press conference Monday (January 11) at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).
In fact, KOI-5Ab was even more complex than researchers realized at the time. By 2014, Ciardi and other scientists had found that the KOI-5 system actually contained three stars. And it was still unclear whether KOI-5Ab actually existed or whether the 2009 signal was generated by one of the star satellites.
KOI-5Ab is back in the spotlight thanks to Kepler’s successor, NASA Exoplanet transit satellite (TESS), which launched in 2018. TESS also noticed a signal in the KOI-5 system generated by a potential planet with an orbital period of five Earth days.
I thought, “I remember that goal,” Siardi said in a statement.
So he scrutinized all the information about the system – transit observations from Kepler and TESS, as well as radial velocity data collected from ground-based instruments such as the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. (Radial velocity measurements quantify how much an orbital planet gravitates to its parent star. Such work can reveal the approximate mass of an exoplanet, while transit observations give a rough idea of its size.)
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Taken together, the data confirm that KOI-5Ab is indeed a planet that is approximately half as massive as Saturn. The new study, which Ciardi described in detail at Monday’s AAS meeting, revealed other details about the KOI-5 system. For example, the main star that KOI-5Ab orbits (star A) has a close satellite (star B); this duo orbits each other once every 30 Earth years. The third star in the system (star C) is much more distant, orbiting the pair AB every 400 years.
In addition, the orbital plane of KOI-5Ab is incompatible with that of star B, suggesting that the star may have given the planet a gravitational charge somewhere in the history of the system, the researchers said. (Stars and their planets are formed by the same cloud of gas and dust, so their orbital planes usually coincide initially.)
KOI-5Ab is far from the first planet to be found in a multi-star system. But such systems appear to receive planets less frequently than one-star solar systems like ours, for reasons that scientists still do not understand.
“Star satellites can partially suppress the process of planet formation,” Chiardi said. “We still have a lot of questions about how and when planets can form in multi-star systems and how their properties are compared to planets in single-star systems. By studying the KOI-5 system in more detail, we can perhaps get an idea of how The universe makes planets. “
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow it on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.