Astronomy Remarkable planet discovery by USQ student

Remarkable planet discovery by USQ student

Evidence of a new planet orbiting a binary star (two stars that orbit a common centre of mass) has been discovered by a University of Southern Queensland PhD student. It’s a discovery reminiscent of the planet that Star War’s Luke Skywalker lived on.

Mr Kelvin Getley, working with an Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) astronomer, also made the interesting discovery that the planet orbits the stars on a tilt.

Mr Getley made the discovery by analysing data captured by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. The newly-discovered planet has a mass 7.7 times more than Jupiter and orbits the binary star every 237.7 days.

“My PhD research involves performing an eclipse timing variation study of binary stars in order to look for any third bodies that may be present, like stars/brown dwarfs or planets,” Mr Getley said.

“I created a program that determined when one star passes in front of another as seen from Earth, and compared them to what we’d expect to see if there was nothing else in the system.”

Mr Getley’s research was guided by his USQ supervisors, Professor Brad Carter and Dr Rachel King, and AAO astronomer Dr Simon O’Toole, an expert in exoplanetary systems.

“This is a really neat result,” Dr O’Toole said, “Planets orbiting two stars have been found before, but the cool thing here is that Kelvin has discovered a planet with a tilted orbit, more reminiscent of Pluto than the other planets in our Solar System.”

Professor Carter leads USQ’s Astrophysics Research Program Team and commended Mr Getley on his work and discovery.

“Kelvin’s research demonstrates that evidence for new worlds can be gathered through an innovative analysis of the Kepler space telescope’s treasure trove of observational data,” he said.

Read more about this exciting discovery here. Story credit: University of Southern Queensland newsroom. Photo credit: USQ Media Design.

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