Doha: A Qatar-led international team has made its first find in its search for planets orbiting distant stars -- a huge gas giant 20 per cent larger than Jupiter that orbits a star 500 light years away.
The planet has been named Qatar-1b and its discovery is to be reported in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development said today.
Working in collaboration with astronomers in Britain and the United States, and using data collected by Qatar`s wide-angle cameras in the US state of New Mexico, the team were able to identify the planet from the dip in light from the parent star as its orbit took it between the star and Earth.
The team had to use computers to sift through data from hundreds of thousands of stars before making their lucky find.
"The discovery of Qatar-1b is a great achievement – one that further demonstrates Qatar`s commitment to becoming a leader in innovative science and research," said Dr Khalid Al Subai, leader of the Qatar exoplanet survey and a research director at the foundation.
"Qatar is proud to contribute to the search for planets around other stars." Qatar-1b orbits just 3.5 million kms from its parent star and roasts at a temperature of around 1100 degrees Celsius.
Professor Keith Horne of St Andrews University in Scotland which collaborated in the research said that using the same technology the team hoped eventually to find planets more similar to our own.
"Qatar-1b is just the beginning," Horne said. "With Qatar`s new planet-hunting cameras, we should soon be finding smaller planets as well, hot Saturns and hot Neptunes, and ultimately, with a different technique, cool Earths."
Qatar-1b circles its star once every 1.4 days, meaning that its "year" is just 34 hours long. It also spins on its axis once every 34 hours as it is expected to be tidally locked with its star, such that one side of the planet always faces the star.
Scientists at the Universities of Leicester and Keele in England and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the US also collaborated in the research.