Astronomy student discovers 17 new planets

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University of British Columbia (UBC) Astronomy Student Michelle Kunimoto has found 17 new planets, including a possibly tenable, Earth-sized world, by going through information accumulated by NASA’s Kepler mission. 

Over its unique four-year strategic, Kepler satellite searched for planets, particularly those that lie in the “habitable zones” of their stars, where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface. 

The new finding, distributed in The Astronomical Journal, incorporates one such especially uncommon planet. Formally named KIC-7340288 b, the planet found by Michelle Kunimoto is only one and a half times the size of Earth – sufficiently little to be viewed as rough, rather than vaporous like the goliath planets of the Solar System – and in the habitable zone of its star. 

“This planet is around a thousand light-years away, so we’re not arriving at any point in the near future!” said Michelle Kunimoto, a PhD up-and-comer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. 

“However, this is a truly energizing find since there have just been 15 little, affirmed planets in the habitable zone found in Kepler information up until now,” Michelle Kunimoto included. 

The planet has a year that is 142.5 days long, circling its star at 0.444 Astronomical Units (AU, the separation between Earth and our Sun) – only greater than Mercury’s circle in our Solar System, and gets about 33% of the light Earth gets from the Sun. 

Of the other 16 new planets found, the littlest is just 66% the size of Earth – perhaps the littlest planet to be found with Kepler up until now. The rest go in size up to multiple times the size of Earth. 

Michelle Kunimoto taking a shot at her PhD at UBC, utilized what is known as the “travel technique” to search for the planets among the about 200,000 stars seen by the Kepler crucial. 

“Each time a planet goes before a star, it obstructs a bit of that star’s light and causes an impermanent decline in the star’s’ brilliance,” Michelle Kunimoto said. 

“By finding these plunges, known as travels, you can begin to sort out data about the planet, for example, its estimate and to what extent it takes to circle,” she further expressed. 

Michelle Kunimoto additionally worked together with UBC graduate Henry Ngo to get dangerously sharp follow-up pictures of a portion of her planet-facilitating stars with the Near InfraRed Imager and Spectrometer (NIRI) on the Gemini North 8-meter telescope in Hawaii. 

“I took images of the stars as if from space, using adaptive optics,” she said. “I was able to tell if there was a star nearby that could have affected Kepler”s measurements, such as being the cause of the dip itself.”
Notwithstanding the new planets, Michelle Kunimoto had the option to watch a huge number of known Kepler planets utilizing the travel strategy and will be re-examining the exoplanet enumeration in general. 

“We’ll be evaluating what number of planets are normal for stars with various temperatures,” said Michelle Kunimoto’s PhD chief and UBC Professor Jaymie Matthews. 

“A particularly important result will be finding a terrestrial habitable zone planet occurrence rate. How many Earth-like planets are there? Stay tuned,” Jaymie Matthews added.

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