Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Little Telescope Finds a Hot Saturn, KELT-6B

A scientific team led by University of Louisville doctoral student Karen Collins has discovered a hot Saturn-like planet in another solar system 700 light-years away.

Collins announced the discovery of exoplanet KELT-6b Tuesday, June 4, during the American Astronomical Society's national meeting in Indianapolis.

Astronomers caught sight of the planet when it passed in front of, or "transited," its host star—and they've since discovered that the planet resembles one of the most famous and well-studied transiting planets, HD 209458b.

The discovery was made using inexpensive ground-based telescopes, including one specially designed to detect exoplanets and jointly operated by astronomers at Ohio State University and Vanderbilt University.

As seen from Earth, KELT-6b resides in the constellation Coma Berenices, near Leo, and has an orbit that transits its star every 7.8 days. That means a "year" on the planet lasts just over a week, and its trip across the face of its star, as seen from Earth, lasts only five hours.

Five hours may seem like a short time, but most planets found by ground-based telescopes have even shorter orbits. So catching a complete observation of KELT-6b took more patience and substantially more luck than usual – a total of seven hours of continuous telescope time with clear skies during darkness. Collins had clear skies on both of her only two opportunities to catch the planet earlier this year at UofL's Moore Observatory.

KELT-6b is now the longest-duration full planetary transit continuously observed from the ground, she said.

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