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15 Year Old High School Student Discovers Exoplanet

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posted on Jun, 11 2015 @ 09:18 AM
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Personal thoughts: The area of exoplanet research known as transit photometry is something all amateur astronomers can take part in which can lead to discoveries such as this one. The technique to tease planets out of lightcurve data is both accessible and simple enough that even kids can do it. With this detection this boy is now the world's youngest planet hunter. A title I suspect might not last too long as I know of a class of 13 and 14 year olds who are doing similar research.

From: 15-year-old discovered a new planet that's 1,000 light years from Earth


You’re never too young to leave your mark on the Universe.

JESSICA ORWIG, BUSINESS INSIDER
11 JUN 2015




At just 15 years old, Tom Wagg discovered what astronomers only began to find 20 years ago - a planet far from Earth, outside of our solar system.

Wagg is one of the youngest to ever detect a planet, according to a press release from Keele University in England where he was working when he made his epic discovery.

In fact, Wagg’s new planet closely resembles some of the very first exoplanets ever identified in the mid ’90s that looked completely different from anything astronomers had ever seen and actually spawned a complete revision of how we think planetary systems form today.

The newly-discovered planet falls into a class of exoplanets called hot Jupiter’s. These planets are large like Jupiter but, unlike Jupiter, they orbit extremely close to their host star - closer than Earth’s distance from the sun.

At such cosy distances, these exoplanets can reach blazing temperatures more than 1,000 degrees Celsius, hence the ‘hot’ in hot Jupiter.

Wagg’s exoplanet is located in a distant solar system within our home galaxy, the Milky Way, 1,000 light years from Earth. It’s about the same size as Jupiter, but only takes two days to orbit its star. Jupiter, by comparison, takes 12 Earth years, or 4,272 days to orbit the sun.

If you look at the constellation Hydra in the night sky, you’ll be looking in the general direction of the planet’s home. Here’s a visionary sketch of what Wagg’s planet, which has yet to be assigned a name, might look like:



It’s the hot Jupiters’ combination of size and proximity that makes these types of exoplanets relatively easy to spot with today’s powerful telescopes through a common detection technique. This technique, which Wagg used, works by examining the amount of light the exoplanet blocks when it passes between Earth and the host star.

By graphing the amount of light Earth receives from the distant star, planet hunters will observe a dip - like in the example below - every time the star crosses over, or transits, the face of the star.



Since 2009, NASA’s famous Kepler Space Telescope has used this transit technique to detect thousands of potential exoplanets throughout the Milky Way, over 1,000 of which have been confirmed. But you don’t have to have a telescope in space to do this.

Case in point, Wagg discovered the exoplanet through the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) project, which combines the light collecting capabilities of small telescopes at universities across the UK. With these telescopes, the scientists who work with WASP generate thousands of light charts from stars across the galaxy.

“The WASP software was impressive, enabling me to search through hundreds of different stars, looking for ones that have a planet,” Wagg said in the Keene University press release.

Although this technique is a popular one for planet hunters, it’s not the most reliable because there are a number of other reasons for a dip in light intensity, such as a gas cloud, a white dwarf, or a glitch in the technology. That’s why it took two years of follow-up studies to confirm that Wagg’s planet was, in fact, a real planet.

Wagg is now 17 years old and has plans to soon attend college and study physics.



I can tell you that the next few years of exoplanet research will be amazing. NASA's new planet hunting space telescope, TESS will be launched in 2017 and is expected to generate mountains of data as it survey's 500,000 [i[nearby stars. TESS is expected to uncover around 500 Earth sized or SuperEarth sized planets, some of which will be in the habitable zone of their star, perhaps creating a map of some of the first places humanity may visit in some distant future.

In order to process all of that data NASA plans to enlist citizen scientists such as this boy by making all TESS data available for public examination and study as is now done with the Kepler/K2 mission.




posted on Jun, 11 2015 @ 09:25 AM
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a reply to: JadeStar

Way to go!! Good for him!



posted on Jun, 11 2015 @ 09:37 AM
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Wow this is really cool. I have loved astronomy but unfortunately know nothing about it. I need to teach myself and my boys. My 7 year old got a telescope a few years back and really enjoyed it. I can't wait for the coming years to see what will be discovered. I just wish my time here on Earth would be longer as we continue this journey.



posted on Jun, 11 2015 @ 09:42 AM
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Very amazing stuff, but bear in mind the detection of exoplanets with current technology is 99% speculation, when mankind can actually 'see' the planets around proxima or alpha centauri that will be a real milestone.



posted on Jun, 11 2015 @ 09:56 AM
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originally posted by: HawkeyeNation
Wow this is really cool. I have loved astronomy but unfortunately know nothing about it. I need to teach myself and my boys. My 7 year old got a telescope a few years back and really enjoyed it. I can't wait for the coming years to see what will be discovered. I just wish my time here on Earth would be longer as we continue this journey.


You know there are some very good introduction to astronomy books you can purchase or probably borrow from your local library. Let me know if you would like a list of them.


There are also some very good astronomy web sites which can help amateur astronomers just starting out. If you need a link, let me know.
edit on 11-6-2015 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 11 2015 @ 09:59 AM
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a reply to: JadeStar

Set course for the Wagg System!

Kudos to the young man, I used to hunt exo's in Zooniverse but this goes above and beyond that. It's good to see that he could be rewarded for his efforts.



posted on Jun, 11 2015 @ 09:59 AM
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originally posted by: manuelram16
Very amazing stuff, but bear in mind the detection of exoplanets with current technology is 99% speculation, when mankind can actually 'see' the planets around proxima or alpha centauri that will be a real milestone.


Detection of exoplanets is not 99% speculation. There are close to around 2,000 confirmed exoplanets. Some visualizations of the planets are speculation however we began to take pictures of exoplanets (albeit low-res ones of giant planets like Jupiter) in the infrared and in the visual spectrum as early as 2005 (see the Exoplanet Timeline in my signature at the bottom of my posts).

Here are some exoplanet firsts as compiled be me:


20 years ago, the first exoplanet circling a normal star was discovered.
16 years ago, the first multi-planet "solar" system was discovered.
14 years ago, the first planet of any type was detected in a circular orbit inside a star's Habitable or "Goldilocks" Zone.
14 years ago, the first exoplanet atmosphere was analyzed and it contained carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
10 years ago, the first infrared light from an exoplanet was detected.
8 years ago, the first temperature map was made of an exoplanet.
8 years ago, the first detection of water on an exoplanet.
7 years ago, the first detection of an organic molecule in an exoplanet's atmosphere.
7 years ago, the first visible light images of an exoplanet.
5 years ago, the first Super Earth detected in a star's habitable zone.
5 years ago, the first exoplanet detected in another galaxy.
5 years ago, the first evidence Earthlike planets are common.
4 years ago, the first "Tatooine" or planet which orbits two stars detected.
4 years ago, the first direct image of a planet being born, forming around its host star.
4 years ago, the first aurora detected from an exoplanet.
4 years ago, the first free floating, "rogue" planet detected.
3 years ago, the first images of planetary system.
3 years ago, the first detailed infrared spectra of an exoplanet.
3 years ago, the first image of a free floating, "rogue" planet.
3 years ago, the first planet detected around Alpha Centauri our Solar System's nearest star.
3 years ago, the first evidence of planet being engulfed by a dying, red giant star.
2 years ago, the first rocky Super Earth is detected.
2 years ago, the first planet with the same size and density of Earth is detected.
2 years ago, the first visible light detected from a Super Earth.
2 years ago, the first amateur astronomy exoplanet discovery. A planet in a 4 star system.
2 years ago, the first exoplanet seen devoured by black hole.
2 years ago, the first cloud map of an exoplanet.
1 year ago, the first comets detected around another star.
1 year ago, the first magnetic field detected around an exoplanet.
1 year ago, the first Earth-size planet detected in a stars habitable zone.
1 year ago, the first possible detection of an exomoon, a moon around an exoplanet.
1 year ago, the first Earth-based CCD images of an exoplanet.
This year, the first ring system detected around an exoplanet
This year, the first exoplanet system detected around an ancient star.
This year, volcanoes detected on a rocky exoplanet.

edit on 11-6-2015 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 11 2015 @ 10:01 AM
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originally posted by: manuelram16
Very amazing stuff, but bear in mind the detection of exoplanets with current technology is 99% speculation, when mankind can actually 'see' the planets around proxima or alpha centauri that will be a real milestone.


I wouldn't say "99% speculation".

The transit method detects the dimming of a star that occurs in such a manner as if something is passing in front of that star an a regular periodic basis. Sure -- the transit method doesn't see a planet, but it is MUCH more than just 1% likely the dimming is caused by a planet.

The radial-velocity method, or "wobble method", detects the wobble in a star as if something else (a planet?) is gravitationally tugging on it. Again, you can't see the planet using this method alone, but it certainly isn't "99% speculation" that the things tugging on the star are a planet.

Besides, we HAVE photographed some actual exoplanets. Some of the exoplanets that had already been found using the transit method or the wobble method had subsequently been photographed using telescopes.

Here are some in this article:
Alien Worlds: Exoplanets in Pictures

The point is that there are definitely exoplanets that have been detected that have a 100% certainty of existing.


edit on 6/11/2015 by Soylent Green Is People because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 11 2015 @ 10:10 AM
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By the way, an ATS member, Tanka418 is developing a micro-observatory which will do among other things transit photometry and will be open to all to use.



posted on Jun, 11 2015 @ 10:14 AM
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originally posted by: manuelram16
Very amazing stuff, but bear in mind the detection of exoplanets with current technology is 99% speculation, when mankind can actually 'see' the planets around proxima or alpha centauri that will be a real milestone.


That's not quite true.

There are a few tried and true methods of discovering exos and even though the detection methods are indirect they are quite reliable. The OP could explain it better but the idiots guide to astronomy says that if a star dips in brightness or there is a slight "bend" in the starlight that could indicate a satellite-the latter is quite hard to explain for people such as myself.



posted on Jun, 11 2015 @ 10:38 AM
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originally posted by: Thecakeisalie
The OP could explain it better but the idiots guide to astronomy says that if a star dips in brightness or there is a slight "bend" in the starlight that could indicate a satellite-the latter is quite hard to explain for people such as myself.

Jade may want to add some of her expertise (considering she studies the field), but the basic explanation for the transit method is quite simple:

Sometimes the brightness of a star will dip down in a manner consistent with something passing in front of it. If that "dip" in starlight happens on a regular periodic basis, then it is probably due to a planet orbiting that star.

It's simple in theory, but difficult in practice. Consider that the dip in light output seen from the star as a planet passes in front of it is about the same as watching a spotlight and detecting the dip in light caused by a bug flying in front to it. The instruments need to be very sensitive to detect these apparent changes in brightness.

Sure -- I suppose it's possible that some other unknown phenomenon is causing the dimming of the star rather than it being caused by an orbiting planet, but it is almost certainly something orbiting the star, and that means that it is most likely planets.


edit on 6/11/2015 by Soylent Green Is People because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 11 2015 @ 10:41 AM
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originally posted by: Thecakeisalie

originally posted by: manuelram16
Very amazing stuff, but bear in mind the detection of exoplanets with current technology is 99% speculation, when mankind can actually 'see' the planets around proxima or alpha centauri that will be a real milestone.


That's not quite true.

There are a few tried and true methods of discovering exos and even though the detection methods are indirect they are quite reliable. The OP could explain it better but the idiots guide to astronomy says that if a star dips in brightness or there is a slight "bend" in the starlight that could indicate a satellite-the latter is quite hard to explain for people such as myself.




Correct.

Here are the various tried and true planet detection techniques visualized because a picture is often worth a thousand words:




posted on Jun, 11 2015 @ 10:50 AM
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originally posted by: Soylent Green Is People

originally posted by: Thecakeisalie
The OP could explain it better but the idiots guide to astronomy says that if a star dips in brightness or there is a slight "bend" in the starlight that could indicate a satellite-the latter is quite hard to explain for people such as myself.

Jade may want to add some of her expertise (considering she studies the field), but the basic explanation for the transit method is quite simple:

Sometimes the brightness of a star will dip down in a manner consistent with something passing in front of it. If that "dip" in starlight happens on a regular periodic basis, then it is probably due to a planet orbiting that star.

It's simple in theory, but difficult in practice. Consider that the dip in light output seen from the star as a planet passes in front of it is about the same as watching a spotlight and detecting the dip in light caused by a bug flying in front to it. The instruments need to be very sensitive to detect these apparent changes in brightness.

Sure -- I suppose it's possible that some other unknown phenomenon is causing the dimming of the star rather than it being caused by an orbiting planet, but it is almost certainly something orbiting the star, and that means that it is most likely planets.



Oh yes, there are other phenomena which can mimic planets with the transit method of detection. We call these "false positives"

The first is the presence of another low mass star. These are called eclipsing binaries and they can cause a light curve to look like there is a planet where there is none.

To rule this out we usually take very careful measurements of the frequency or color of starlight from the star(s) in question. Eclipsing binaries are fairly easy to exclude this way.

The other big contributor to false positives are starspots. These are the same thing as Sunspots but on other stars. As the star spins the spots come into view dimming the star light as a planet might.

These are harder to rule out but other close examination of these stars often does. This is why scientists are very careful when announcing an exoplanet and why we have a bunch of planet candidates (5,501) and 1,838 confirmed planets.

Candidates don't typically get a press release because they could be false positives.



posted on Jun, 11 2015 @ 12:46 PM
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So nobody dreams when mankind can send a probe/space telescope to one of our nearest stars and send back images ?



posted on Jun, 11 2015 @ 01:08 PM
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originally posted by: manuelram16
So nobody dreams when mankind can send a probe/space telescope to one of our nearest stars and send back images ?


I think we all do. It will be a daunting task but it is one which people in the exoplanet community are already calling for.

See: Planet-hunting pioneer calls for probe to Alpha Centauri

I would not be shocked if such a probe were built within my lifetime (i'm 20). In fact, once we have some very good nearby habitable planets well characterized through missions like NASA's TESS, James Webb Space Telescope and WFIRST-AFTA as well as ESA missions like PLATO, ARIEL and CHEOPS, we'll probably have a big push to send a probe to a nearby Earthlike planet.



posted on Jun, 11 2015 @ 03:17 PM
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originally posted by: manuelram16
So nobody dreams when mankind can send a probe/space telescope to one of our nearest stars and send back images ?
Yes we do. See this documentary which is more than just dreams (though not much more). Scientists were consulted on how such probes might operate and computer animations of such hypothetical future probes are shown in operation in these simulations.

Alien Planet (shows how future probes may explore alien planets)




posted on Jun, 15 2015 @ 10:59 AM
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originally posted by: JadeStar
By the way, an ATS member, Tanka418 is developing a micro-observatory which will do among other things transit photometry and will be open to all to use.


Indeed...When I started the project I wasn't really thinking too much about exoplanet search...now, its becoming the main "thrust" of the project.

As it turns out exoplanet search is rather easy, and had even been successfully done with a DSLR camera...lots of work though.

The system I'm building will have a 48 bit color CCD sensor, which will allow me to have a full 16 bit "magnitude" resolution. This resolution exceeds the capacity of the CCD device as it's "full well" or saturation level is 25,000 electrons. Anyway, after doing all the math; I can detect a change in host star magnitude as low as around 0.008%. After we get through dealing with the atmosphere (using differential photometry) the sensitivity is still way better than 0.05% (or so).

If Earth was detected passing in front of Sol, from somewhere out in space; the difference in magnitude would be on the order of 0.9% of Sol's normal magnitude...very easy to detect. The fact that the change in magnitude lasts for a specific length of time, and occurs at a regular period kind of screams planet.

Other methods of planet detection are also not so difficult. Radial velocity, where a star will speed up or slow down ever so slightly on a regular period also indicates a planet. This can be detected by using a spectrometer in conjunction with the telescope. Or in my case, placing a diffraction grating in the light path, and using software to make sense of it. This can produce a kind of "color map" of the star's wobble, indicating a planet. What we look for here is called red / blue shift, where the light from the star shifts slightly toward the blue or red ends of the spectrum.

And then there is the seriously exciting micro-lensing. This can occur when the gravity of a planet causes the micro lensing effect (bending of the star's light)...I'm still not real clear on the conditions required for this, but, a planet micro-lensing can cause a small localized increase in apparent magnitude of a star. This should also give rise to the ability to get some spectrographic data about the planet's atmosphere.

By the way; as of the last update I have there are 2015 confirmed exoplanets. You can find this update on my observatories website (below).




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