Washington: Astronomers have discovered nine new planets—a feat that challenges the reigning theory of the formation of planets.
Two of the astronomers involved in the discoveries are based at the UC Santa Barbara-affiliated Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT), based in Goleta, Calif., near UCSB.
Unlike the planets in our solar system, two of the newly discovered planets are orbiting in the opposite direction to the rotation of their host star.
The discovery, along with a recent study of other exoplanets, upsets the primary theory of how planets are formed.
There is a preponderance of these planets with their orbital spin going opposite to that of their parent star. They are called exoplanets because they are located outside of our solar system.
"Planet evolution theorists now have to explain how so many planets came to be orbiting like this," said Tim Lister, a project scientist at LCOGT.
Data from LCOGT was instrumental in confirming the new planet discoveries.
By adding these nine new "transiting" planets, the number of known transiting planets has grown from 71 to 80.
After the initial detection of the new exoplanets by the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP), the team of astronomers combined data from LCOGT``s 2.0-meter Faulkes Telescopes in Hawaii and Australia with follow-up from other telescopes to confirm the discoveries and characterize the planets.
The planets are revolving around nearby stars within 1,000 light years of our galaxy.
Their stars are located in the constellations Pegasus, Virgo, Pisces, and Andromeda in the northern hemisphere, and Eridanus, Hydra, Cetus, and Phoenix in the southern hemisphere.
The nine planets are called "Hot Jupiters." These planets are giant gas planets that orbit close to their star.
Because they are both large and close, they are easier to detect from their gravitational effect on their stars, and more likely to transit the disk of the star.
Most of the first exoplanets discovered were of this type.
These and other related discoveries will be presented at the UK National Astronomy Meeting in Glasgow, Scotland.