15 new planets hint at 'traffic jam' of moons in habitable zone
Volunteers from the Planethunters.org website, part of the Oxford University-led Zooniverse project, have discovered 15 new planet candidates orbiting in the habitable zones of other stars. Added to the 19 similar planets already discovered in habitable zones, where the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water, the new finds suggest that there may be a 'traffic jam' of all kinds of strange worlds in regions that could potentially support life.
Rather than being seen directly, the new planet candidates were found by Planethunters.org volunteers looking for a telltale dip in the brightness as planets pass in front of their parent stars. One of the 15, a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting a Sun-like star, has been officially confirmed as a planet (with 99.9% certainty) after follow-up work with the Keck telescope in Hawai'i and has been named 'PH2 b'. It is the second confirmed planet to be found by Planethunters.org.
A report of the research has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal.
"There's an obsession with finding Earth-like planets but what we are discovering, with planets such as PH2 b, is far stranger," said Zooniverse lead Dr Chris Lintott of Oxford University. "Jupiter has several large water-rich moons -- imagine dragging that system into the comfortably warm region where the Earth is. If such a planet had Earth size moons, we'd see not Europa and Callisto but worlds with rivers, lakes and all sorts of habitats -- a surprising scenario that might just be common."
Planethunters lead scientist Professor Debra Fisher of Yale University said: "We are seeing the emergence of a new era in the Planet Hunters project where our volunteers seem to be at least as efficient as the computer algorithms at finding planets orbiting at habitable zone distances from the host stars. Now, the hunt is not just targeting any old exoplanet - volunteers are homing in on habitable worlds."
Lead author Dr Ji Wang, also of Yale University, said: 'We can speculate that PH2 b might have a rocky moon that would be suitable for life. I can't wait for the day when astronomers report detecting signs of life on other worlds instead of just locating potentially habitable environments. That could happen any day now.'
More than 40 volunteers are acknowledged in the paper for their contributions to the work. Among them is Roy Jackson, a 71-year-old retired police officer who lives in Birtley, near Gateshead. He said: 'It is difficult to put into words, the pleasure, wonderment and perhaps even pride that I have in some small way been able to assist in the discovery of a planet. But I would like to say that the discovery makes the time spent on the search well worth the effort.'
Mark Hadley, an electronics engineer from Faversham, another of the Planet Hunters credited on the paper, said: 'Now, when people ask me what I achieved last year I can say I have helped discover a possible new planet around a distant star! How cool is that?'
Dr Chris Lintott said: 'These are planet candidates that slipped through the net, being missed by professional astronomers and rescued by volunteers in front of their web browsers. It's remarkable to think that absolutely anyone can discover a planet.'
Source: University of Oxford
Articles on the same topic
- Earth-size planets common in galaxyTue, 8 Jan 2013, 13:37:58 EST
- Planets aboundThu, 3 Jan 2013, 15:02:16 EST
- Amateur Astronomers Discover 42 Alien Planetsfrom Space.comFri, 11 Jan 2013, 14:30:29 EST
- Most Earth-Like Alien Planet Possibly Foundfrom Live ScienceThu, 10 Jan 2013, 0:31:20 EST
- Most Earth-Like Alien Planet Possibly Foundfrom Space.comWed, 9 Jan 2013, 17:00:29 EST
- Alien Earth: What it will mean to find our planet's twinfrom CBSNews - ScienceWed, 9 Jan 2013, 15:00:20 EST
- Alien Earth: What It Will Mean to Find Our Planet's Twinfrom Live ScienceWed, 9 Jan 2013, 11:30:47 EST
- Alien Earth: What It Will Mean to Find Our Planet's Twinfrom Space.comWed, 9 Jan 2013, 8:00:27 EST
- Not So Special: 17 Percent Of Sun-Like Stars May Have Earth-Sized Planetsfrom Scientific BloggingTue, 8 Jan 2013, 18:31:12 EST
- 2,740 new candidate planets have been discovered: get the full listfrom The Guardian - ScienceTue, 8 Jan 2013, 14:00:29 EST
- Earth-size planets common in galaxy: Perhaps 17 percent of sun-like stars have Earth-size planets within the orbit of Mercuryfrom Science DailyTue, 8 Jan 2013, 13:31:09 EST
- Search for Earth’s twin shows promisefrom Harvard ScienceTue, 8 Jan 2013, 11:10:18 EST
- Kepler mission discovers 461 new planet candidatesfrom PhysorgTue, 8 Jan 2013, 11:00:46 EST
- Billions of Earth ‘twins’ may exist in Milky wayfrom CBC: Technology & ScienceTue, 8 Jan 2013, 11:00:23 EST
- Kepler satellite: astronomers may have discovered 461 new planetsfrom The Guardian - ScienceTue, 8 Jan 2013, 8:00:34 EST
- Earth-size planets 'number 17bn'from BBC News: Science & NatureTue, 8 Jan 2013, 2:30:33 EST
- NASA Finds 461 Alien Planet Candidates, Some Possibly Habitablefrom Live ScienceMon, 7 Jan 2013, 19:30:27 EST
- Billions of Earthlike Planets Found in Milky Wayfrom National GeographicMon, 7 Jan 2013, 19:00:39 EST
- NASA's Kepler gets a little help from its friends: Kepler's follow-up observers confirm new discoveriesfrom Science DailyMon, 7 Jan 2013, 18:00:53 EST
- NASA's Kepler telescope finds 461 potential new planetsfrom Reuters:ScienceMon, 7 Jan 2013, 17:50:12 EST
- At least one in six stars has an Earth-sized planet, analysis findsfrom Science DailyMon, 7 Jan 2013, 16:31:24 EST
- Study: At least one in six stars has an Earth-sized planetfrom PhysorgMon, 7 Jan 2013, 16:01:23 EST
- NASA Finds 461 Alien Planet Candidates, Some Possibly Habitablefrom Space.comMon, 7 Jan 2013, 16:00:39 EST
- 17 Billion Earths of the Milky Way Explained (Infographic)from Space.comMon, 7 Jan 2013, 16:00:38 EST
- 17 Billion Earth-Size Alien Planets Inhabit Milky Wayfrom Live ScienceMon, 7 Jan 2013, 15:30:27 EST
- NASA's Kepler discovers 461 new planet candidatesfrom Science DailyMon, 7 Jan 2013, 15:00:35 EST
- Billions And Billions: Our Galaxy Has At Least 100 Billion Planets, Of Which 17 Billion Are Earthlikefrom PopSciMon, 7 Jan 2013, 15:00:22 EST
- Milky Way has at least 17 billion Earth-size planetsfrom CBC: Technology & ScienceMon, 7 Jan 2013, 14:30:19 EST
- NASA's Kepler Discovers 461 New Planet Candidatesfrom NASA Jet Propulsion LaboratoryMon, 7 Jan 2013, 14:00:48 EST
- 17 Billion Earth-Size Alien Planets Inhabit Milky Wayfrom Space.comMon, 7 Jan 2013, 14:00:22 EST
- Milky Way holds over 100 billion planetsfrom CBSNews - ScienceMon, 7 Jan 2013, 12:30:50 EST
- Fifteen new planets hint at 'traffic jam' of moons in habitable zonefrom Science DailyMon, 7 Jan 2013, 10:31:13 EST
- 15 new planets hint at ‘traffic jam’ of moons in habitable zonefrom Science BlogMon, 7 Jan 2013, 10:30:22 EST
- 15 new planets hint at 'traffic jam' of moons in habitable zonefrom PhysorgMon, 7 Jan 2013, 10:00:40 EST
- 100 Billion Alien Planetsfrom Space.comFri, 4 Jan 2013, 13:30:19 EST
- Estimate puts at least 100 billion planets in galaxyfrom Science BlogThu, 3 Jan 2013, 18:30:20 EST
- Milky Way may have 100 billion planetsfrom UPIThu, 3 Jan 2013, 17:30:20 EST
- Planets abound: Astronomers estimate that at least 100 billion planets populate the galaxyfrom Science DailyThu, 3 Jan 2013, 15:00:27 EST
- Billions and Billions of Planetsfrom NASA Jet Propulsion LaboratoryThu, 3 Jan 2013, 13:20:20 EST
- Planets abound: Astronomers estimate that at least 100 billion planets populate the galaxyfrom PhysorgThu, 3 Jan 2013, 6:20:56 EST
- 100 Billion Alien Planets Fill Our Milky Way Galaxy: Studyfrom Live ScienceWed, 2 Jan 2013, 23:00:27 EST
- 100 Billion Alien Planets Fill Our Milky Way Galaxy: Studyfrom Space.comWed, 2 Jan 2013, 16:00:27 EST
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Learn more about
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Ancient mammal relatives were active at night 100 million years before origin of mammals
- Walking fish reveal how our ancestors evolved onto land
- New DNA study unravels the settlement history of the New World Arctic
- Electric current to brain boosts memory
- Radio telescopes settle controversy over distance to Pleiades