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Citizen scientists have discovered two new gaseous planets!

Two new gaseous planets have been found orbiting a sun-like star 352 light-years from Earth while collaborating with astronomers citizen scientists helped discover. The two exoplanets, planets outside our solar system, orbit stars are called planets b and c. They orbit a star known as HD 152843, which has a similar mass to our sun but is 1.5 times bigger and brighter. Earlier this month, their discoveries were published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Planet b is smaller in size than Neptune but about 3.4 times larger than Earth. Every 12 Earth days, it completes one orbit around the star. The outer planet, planet c, is 5.8 times bigger than Earth, making it a sub-Saturn and has an orbit between 19 and 35 Earth days.By participating in Planet Hunter Tiss, citizen scientists were able to help discover these planets. This is NASA funded project, available on the Zooniverse website. It includes more than 29,000 people around the globe and allows people to help search for exoplanets using data from the TESS mission or NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.

In April 2018, the planet-hunting satellite was launched. To date, the mission team has discovered over 2,600 planets and has identified more than 100 exoplanets that need to be confirmed. Publicly available TESS data is used by volunteer citizen scientists to search through graphs that show the brightness of stars being observed by the satellite called light curves. If any of the stars show a dip in brightness, it could mean that a planet has passed in front of the star during orbit, which is called a transit.

If multiple people submit the same light curve for researchers to analyze, an algorithm collects them. This way, they have exoplanet candidates they can follow up on. These light curves help to have human eyes because computers cannot correctly identify potential planets as other phenomena can be easily mistaken for planets.

The researchers analyzed the information collected by citizen scientists about HD 152843 and compared it with Models. They found out that two transit were made by the planet closest to the star, planet b, while a third observed transit likely came from the outer planet, planet c. Follow-up observations of the star were made using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher for the Northern hemisphere, at the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in La Palma, Spain, or the Extreme Precision Spectrometer instrument at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and HARPS-N.

Using the radial velocity method provided further confirmation of the planets, which tracks the wobble of starlight as planets orbit a star. Both the planets are too gaseous and hot to support life.

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Carol Green

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