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.”

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).