Hatfield students help find new planet

THE youngest planet outside our solar system has been found by University of Hertfordshire boffins who are working on a ground-breaking project.

Hatfield astronomers, Dr Maria Cruz G�lvez-Ortiz and Dr John Barnes, are part of an international collaboration which has recently discovered an extrasolar planet (a planet outside the solar system) – given the catchy name BD+20 1790b.

The giant planet, six times the mass of Jupiter, is 35 million years old – which is comparatively young when considering the Earth is estimated to have been developed 4.54 billion years ago.

It orbits a central star at a distance closer than Mercury orbits the Sun and was very difficult to find, according to Dr G�lvez-Ortiz.

“The planet was detected by searching for very small variations in the velocity of the host star,” she said: “Overcoming the interference caused by the activity was a major challenge for the team, but with enough data from an array of large telescopes the planet’s signature was revealed.”


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It is hoped this revelation will be influential for scientists hoping to learn more on the early stages of planet evolution – as previously only one 100 million year old planet was known of.

Their discovery has been published this week in the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal and was made using a range of different telescopes, including the Observatorio de Calar Alto (Almer�a, Spain) and the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (La Palma, Spain).

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