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Planet with most eccentric orbit flashes astronomers with reflected light

19 March 2016 Astronomy Now

A team of researchers led by San Francisco State University astronomer Stephen Kane were able to detect a signal of reflected light from a planet known as HD 20782 b — a “flash” of starlight bouncing off the planet’s atmosphere as it made its closest orbital approach to its parent star on the most eccentric, comet-like orbit yet seen.

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Finding new worlds with a play of light and shadow

1 November 2015 Astronomy Now

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.

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Ground-based detection of super-Earth transit

1 December 2014 Astronomy Now

A team of astronomers has measured the passing of a super-Earth in front of a bright, nearby Sun-like star using a ground-based telescope for the first time. Exoplanet 55 Cancri e, some 40 light-years away, is about twice as big and eight times as massive as the Earth.