UCLA Astronomers Discover More Than 300 New Exoplanets In ‘Significant Advance’
An algorithm developed by UCLA astronomers has helped them to identify 366 new exoplanets, including a number of ‘noteworthy’ findings.
Exoplanets – planets located outside our solar system – are relatively rare discoveries, with fewer than 5,000 having been identified by astronomers. Locating hundreds of new exoplanets has been described as a ‘significant accomplishment’, with scientists hoping the newly identified planets could help us learn more about how planets form and understand how our own solar system compares to other systems in our galaxy.
‘What sets this work apart is how it will illuminate features of the exoplanet population as a whole,’ UCLA astronomy professor Erik Petigura said in a press release.
The study, which was conducted by an international team of scientists, used data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope and a ‘planet detection algorithm’ developed by lead author Jon Zink to identify the exoplanets. Petigura described the algorithm as a ‘major breakthrough’ for scientists’ understanding of exoplanets, saying, ‘I have no doubt they will sharpen our understanding of the physical processes by which planets form and evolve.’
In addition to the 366 newly identified planets, the study helped catalogue another 381 planets that had previously been discovered. The discoveries were published earlier this week in the Astronomical Journal.
According to Zink, analysing the exoplanets could help scientists understand which stars are most likely to have planets orbiting them.
He said: ‘We need to look at a wide range of stars, not just ones like our sun, to understand that. The discovery of each new world provides a unique glimpse into the physics that play a role in planet formation.’
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