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.
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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