Amateur astronomers discover a planet that NASA’s algorithms couldn’t find


A team of citizen scientists was able to discover a planet outside the solar system the size of Jupiter hidden despite being in plain sight, and orbiting a star similar to our sun, and the scientific study indicates that the planet belongs to a rare class of transiting exoplanets, and contains many heavy elements, It is slightly warmer than room temperature on Earth.

According to RT, the planet floats 379 light-years away from us, and every 261 days it completes an orbit around a star with the same mass as our sun.

So far, the offshore gas giant, dubbed TOI-2180 b, has disappeared from data collected by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, known as TES, as it was entangled so deeply that even the agency’s best algorithms didn’t capture it.

“Instead of relying on automation, citizen scientists have looked to an easily accessible tool: their eyes, along with With hard work.”

Tom Jacobs, a member of the national team of scientists and a former US Navy officer, explained that he and fellow amateur astronomers “devote many hours every day to scanning data out of an interest in advancing science.” To date, the team has co-authored more than 68 scientific papers reviewed by scientists. .

Professional exoplanet hunters usually program computers to dig through TESS’s mounds of information and analyze patterns of brightness around nearby stars.

When the star is dimmed from Earth’s viewpoint, a shift in luminosity indicates the presence of a planet in a star system that is blocking stellar rays from light heading toward us.

But while more than 4,000 exoplanets owe recognition to such an analysis, the tried-and-tested method faces a slight snag. The TESS-scouring code tracks brightness patterns, meaning it requires several datasets to determine a potential exoplanet discovery. solar.

The newly discovered exoplanet, however, exhibited a so-called “single transit event”, where paths crossed with starlight only once, thus providing one set of data.

With the help of a downloadable program called LcTools, Jacobs and his amateur colleagues are looking at TESS data to examine stars’ luminosity in the form of light curves, or brightness adjustments over time. This level of scrutiny helped Jacobs first notice the TOI-2180 b signal on February 1, 2020.

“The manual effort they put in is really important and impressive, because it’s really hard to write a code that can go through a million light curves and reliably identify single transit events,” said astronomer Paul Delba of the University of California.

However, just as algorithms run into obstacles, so too does the human eye. TESS codes generally look for multiple iterations of star dimming for some reason. More signals enhance the possibility of real detection of exoplanets.

Using the Automated Planet Finder Telescope at the Lick Observatory in Mount Hamilton, California, Delpa measured the star’s “wobbles” to determine the exoplanet’s size, and spent 500 days and 27 hours observing its orbit.

The entire research team also organized an “observation campaign”, inviting both professional and non-professional astronomers to establish sites at 14 sites across three continents, using telescopes to observe the TOI-2180 b. In all, over the course of 11 days, they took more than 20,000 separate images of the exoplanet’s star in varying degrees of brightness.

“The discovery of TOI-2180 b was a great team effort to prove that professional astronomers and amateur scientists can work together successfully. It’s synergy at its best,” Jacobs said.

Despite the painstaking effort, Delpa, Jacobs, and the rest of the astronomers say they still lack reliable evidence to confirm the case of TOI-2180 b. However, they realized that the planet would transit its host star again in February, providing a new window for further analysis.


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