Exoplanet NAM post

I’ve written up a new post about today’s NAM announcement of the discovery of an embryonic exoplanet. The first paragraph is below:

“Astronomers here in Belfast have just announced that they have discovered what they believe to be the youngest ever planet observed. So young that it may have not completely formed yet. They used radio telescopes in the UK (the MERLIN network) and in the US (the VLA) to study the star system of HL Tau, a star in Taurus about 520 light years from Earth”

You can read the full article and see the pictures here.

NAM day two

Well today is day two of the National Astronomy Meeting. I’m going to be posting any future NAM news I have on the NAMblog so be sure to check there for the latest NAM news. Today has kicked off with some great plenary session lectures on the acceleration of the Universe and the dynamic nature of the magnetic fields on the surface of the Sun. Chris and I have posted two takes on Dr Brian Schmidt’s ‘Measuring cosmic acceleration’ talk, why not take a look.

NAM news 1: SuperWASP strikes (10x)

swasp_3.jpgOne of the results that has just been released from the National Astronomy Meeting is that the SuperWASP exoplanet hunting project has discovered an incredible 10 new exoplanets. SuperWASP is an ingenious project which uses eight sensitive CCDs on eight wide field telescopes to monitor a huge number of stars in the night sky. It can record an incredible 100,000 stars in one image! What they are looking for is the tell-tale blink (more of a temporary and gradual dimming) of a star’s light which indicates a planet passing in front of the star.

This method of looking for the dimming of a star is known as the ‘transit method’ of exoplanet hunting. There have been around 270 exoplanets discovered so far and 45 of those found have been via the transit method. What’s even more impressive is that of those 45, 15 were detected by the SuperWASP instruments. The new planets that the robotic telescope has discovered range in masses of between half and just over eight Jupiter masses.

If you haven’t heard of the SuperWASP project or want to find out more then have a read of their pages here.

Above: The SuperWASP-South instrument array
Credit: SuperWASP