The hunt is on! Huge public dataset may contain hints of exoplanets

Camille Francis
February 16, 2017

Planets beyond our solar system are tiny and dark when compared to their host stars, so some advanced techniques have to be used to pinpoint them.

The dataset has readings taken over two decades, and offers the public direct access to one of the best exoplanet searches in the world.

Scientists have discovered that by looking at HIRES' intricate breakdown of a star's light, they could measure a star's radial velocity and look for subtle variations in the movement of the star that could result from the gravitational influence of an orbiting exoplanet. Keck Observatory. Along with the dataset, the public is encouraged to download open-source software and an online tutorial to assist in analysis.

"There seems to be no shortage of exoplanets", Burt said.

A team of scientists from different educational bodies, including MIT and the Carnegie Institution for Science, has decided that their collective efforts are not enough to cover all the planets and stars in the massive database they have created.

Even if the dataset was not developed to search for exoplanets, Jennifer Burt, a member of the group of scientists and an MIT Torres postdoctoral researcher, stated that HIRES proved to be an efficient planet-hunter.

By checking out these measurements, scientists can actually learn more about how a star wobbles in its orbit.

West Ham have been playing better even since Dimitri Payet left
Very positive going forward with the ball, hurting them but also keeping the shape to stop them counterattacking us. It was a great game and we were great in every sense of the word; individually and as a team".

"Although HIRES was originally created to look at faint galaxies, my teammates had plans to use HIRES for planet hunting before it was even installed", Jennifer Burt, an MIT postdoctoral fellow who's involved in the project, told Digital Trends.

"HIRES was not specifically optimised to do this type of exoplanet detective work, but has turned out to be a workhorse instrument of the field", study co-author Vogt said in a statement.

Thanks to the data collected by HIRES, the researchers have also been able to confirm the presence of an exoplanet in orbit around the fourth-closest star to our Sun, GJ 411. With all these data compiled, any given star in the dataset can have several days', years', ore even more than a decade's worth of observations.

HIRES has spotted over 1,600 so-called neighborhood stars, each within 325 light-years from our planet and with observations ranging from 30 seconds to 20 minutes based on the level of precision needed in measuring.

"We've gone from the early days of thinking maybe there are five or 10 other planets out there, to realizing nearly every star next to us might have a planet", Burt says. Already, the team has discovered roughly 100 potential exoplanets, six of which are believed to exist around a single star.

Periodically, the team will supplement the dataset with further observations made by HIRES.

Then, Burt says, the hunt for exoplanets can really take off.

Other reports by My Hot News

Discuss This Article