Using an advanced planet detection algorithm, astronomers have discovered over 300 possible new exoplanets.


Using an advanced planet detection algorithm, astronomers have discovered more than 300 possible new exoplanets.

UCLA astronomers discovered 366 new exoplanets, thanks in part to a UCLA postdoctoral scholar’s algorithm.

A planetary system consisting of a star and at least two gas giant planets, each roughly the size of and located unusually close to one another, is one of their most notable discoveries.

The findings are detailed in a paper published in the Astronomical Journal on November 23, 2021.

Planets outside of our solar system are referred to as “exoplanets.”

Hundreds of new exoplanets have been discovered, bringing the total number of exoplanets discovered by astronomers to under 5,000.

Scientists may be able to learn more about how planets form and orbits evolve by studying such a large new group of bodies, as well as gain new insights into how unusual our solar system is.

“While discovering hundreds of new exoplanets is a significant achievement in and of itself, what distinguishes this work is how it will illuminate features of the population as a whole,” said Erik Petigura, a UCLA astronomy professor and co-author of the study.

Jon Zink, who received his doctorate from UCLA in June and is now a UCLA postdoctoral scholar, is the paper’s lead author.

Using data from the Kepler Space Telescope’s K2 mission, he and Petigura, as well as an international team of astronomers called the Scaling K2 project, identified the exoplanets.

Zink developed a new planet detection algorithm, which enabled the discovery.

Reduced staller brightness could be caused by the instrument or a different astrophysical source that looks like a planetary signature, which makes identifying new planets difficult.

Determining which ones are which requires additional investigation, which has traditionally taken a long time and can only be done through visual inspection.

Zink’s algorithm can distinguish between signals that indicate planets and signals that are simply noise.

“Jon and the Scaling K2 team’s catalog and planet detection algorithm is a major breakthrough in understanding the population of planets,” Petigura said.

“I’m confident they’ll improve our understanding of the physical processes that cause planets to form and evolve.”

Kepler’s first mission ended abruptly in 2013 when a mechanical failure rendered the spacecraft unable to precisely point at the patch of sky it had been studying for years.

However, astronomers repurposed the telescope for the K2 mission, whose goal is to…

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