Robotic cameras spot 10 new extra solar planets

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Washington, April 2 : An international team of astronomers has found 10 new planets outside the solar system by using a system of robotic cameras.

The new international collaboration is called "SuperWASP," for Wide Area Search for Planets.

This technique of locating the planets gives more information about the formation and evolution of the planets than the gravitational technique. Astronomers look for "transits," moments when the planets pass in front of the star, like an eclipse, as viewed from the Earth.

In the last six months, the SuperWASP team has used two batteries of cameras, one in Spain's Canary Islands and one in South Africa, to discover the 10 new extra solar planets.

The SuperWASP technique involves two sets of cameras to watch for events known as transits, where a planet passes directly in front of a star and blocks out some of the star's light. From the Earth, the star temporarily appears a little fainter.

The SuperWASP cameras work as robots, surveying a large area of the sky at once.

Each night, astronomers receive data from millions of stars. They can then check for transits and hence planets. The transit technique also allows scientists to deduce the size and mass of each planet.

The planets discovered by SuperWASP have masses between a middle weight of half the size of Jupiter to more than eight times the size of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.

A number of these new worlds are very exotic.

For example, a year, or one orbit, on WASP-12b, is just a bit over one day. This planet is so close to its star that its daytime temperature could reach a searing 2300 degrees Celsius.

According to Rachel Street from LCOGTN/UCSB, the discovery is a "very big step forward for the field."

"The flood of new discoveries from SuperWASP will revolutionize our understanding of how planets form," said Tim Lister, a participating astronomer on the project.

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