Sunday, 24 October 2010

University of Texas Students, Telescopes Help Discover Planets Around Elderly Binary Star

 The 2.1-meter (82-inch) Otto Struve Telescope at the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. Photo by Marty Harris/McDonald Observatory.


News Release: McDonald Observatory, The University of Texas, 21 October 2010
An international consortium of astronomers, including undergraduate and graduate
students at The University of Texas at Austin, have discovered a planetary system
consisting of at least two massive Jupiter-like planets orbiting the extremely close
binary star system NN Serpentis. The team used a wide variety of observations
taken over two decades from many telescopes, including two at The University of
Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory in West Texas.
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The results are published
online in the current edition of the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Because of the disturbing effects of a binary star system’s gravity, astronomers
normally do not expect to find planets in such systems, but the research team was
able to use the eclipses of the stars as a precise clock whose irregularities could be
used to detect planets in orbit around the binary.

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