Two high school students discovered four new exoplanets about 200 light-years from Earth, considering them the ‘youngest astronomers’ to make such a discovery.
In the Student Research Mentoring Program (SRMP) at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, Kartik Pinglé, 16, and Jasmine Wright, 18, both of whom attend schools in Massachusetts, participated in the (CfA).
The students researched and analyzed data from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite along with the aid of Tansu Daylan, a postdoc at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Science (TESS).
Together, they focused on a nearby, bright sun-like star, Tess Object of Interest (TOI) 1233, and here they found four planets revolving around the star.
“We were looking to see changes in light over time,” Pinglé explained. “The idea being that if the planet transits the star, or passes in front of it, it would [periodically] cover up the star and decrease its brightness.”
TESS is a space-based satellite that has detected more than 20,000 transiting exoplanets, some of which could be super-Earths in the habitable zone. Pinglé and Wright had at least hoped to find one planet while exploring 1233, but when a total of four were spotted, they were overcome with joy.
“I was very excited and very shocked,” Wright said. “We knew this was the goal of Daylan’s research, but to actually find a multi-planetary system, and be part of the discovering team, was really cool.
“Three of the newly discovered planets are deemed ‘sub-Neptunes, which are gaseous, but smaller to the Neptune that lives in our solar system.”
The team determined that each one completes its orbit around 1233 every six to 19.5 days while studying the planets. However, for its large size and rockiness, the fourth planet is called a ‘super-Earth’-this one orbits around the star in just under four days.
“Our species has long been contemplating planets beyond our solar system and with multi-planetary systems, you’re kind of hitting the jackpot,” Dylan said.
“The planets originated from the same disk of matter around the same star, but they ended up being different planets with different atmospheres and different climates due to their different orbits. So, we would like to understand the fundamental processes of planet formation and evolution using this planetary system.”
Daylan added that it was a ‘win-win’ to work with Pinglé and Wright on the study.
“As a researcher, I really enjoy interacting with young brains that are open to experimentation and learning and have a minimal bias,” he said.
“I also think it is very beneficial to high school students since they get exposure to cutting-edge research and this prepares them quickly for a research career.”
Source: Daily Mail