A team led by the University of Edinburgh used a telescope in Chile to study weather systems in the distant world known as PSO J318.5-22 which is estimated to be around 20 million years old. Layers of clouds, made up of hot dust and droplets of molten iron, have been detected on the planet-like object found 75 light-years from Earth, researchers say.
One method to discover planets beyond the solar system by far is transit photometry, which measures changes in a star’s brightness when a planet crosses in front of its star along our line of sight. NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has used this technique to become the most successful planet-hunting spacecraft to date, with more than a thousand established discoveries. Satellites carrying improved technology for all-sky surveys are now planned, missions that will tell us a great deal about alien planetary systems similar to our own.
The 2.1-metre telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory will be transformed into the first dedicated adaptive optics (AO) observatory for astronomy. This system, named Robo-AO KP, will allow astronomers to study large numbers of astronomical objects in high resolution, spanning science from planetary to stellar, and exoplanetary to extragalactic.
Twenty years after they were first discovered, ‘hot Jupiters’ — gas giant planets that orbit very close to their star — are still enigmatic objects. Using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, an international team of astrophysicists has shown that such bodies may only take several million years to migrate close to their newly formed star.
A team of astronomers, using the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) on the Gemini South telescope in Chile, has given us our best view yet of an exoplanet moving in its orbit around a distant star. A series of images captured between November 2013 and April 2015 shows the exoplanet β Pictoris b as it moves through 1½ years of its 22-year orbital period.
An accidental find of a collection of young red dwarf stars close to our solar system could give us a rare glimpse of slow-motion planet formation. Astronomers from The Australian National University and University of New South Wales, Canberra found large discs of dust around two of the stars, telltale signs of planets in the process of forming.
The Gemini Planet Imager instrument has discovered and photographed its first planet. Dubbed 51 Eridani b, the body is a methane-enshrouded gas giant that is the most Jupiter-like exoplanet ever directly imaged, in a planetary system just 20 million years old. It may hold the key to understanding how large planets form in the swirling accretion discs around stars.
Astronomers have discovered the tenth known ‘transiting circumbinary’ planet, which orbits two stars. Like the fictional planet “Tatooine” from Star Wars, this planet has two suns in its sky. Known as Kepler-453 b, the new planet is a gas-giant six times the diameter of Earth and lies in the habitable zone of its host pair of stars.