Three New Planets Announced by UK's Planet Hunters
The UK's leading team of planet-hunting astronomers, the Wide Area Search for
Planets (WASP), today (31st October 2007) announced the discovery of three new
These extra-solar planets were seen to pass in front of, or transit, their
host star. Studying such planets outside of our Solar System allows scientists
to investigate how planetary systems form. WASP is the first team to detect
planets in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere using this technique.
An artist's impression
of an extra solar planetPhoto credit: David A
Dr Coel Hellier, of Keele University, comments "When we see a transit we can
deduce the size and mass of the planet and also what it is made of, so we can
use these planets to study how solar systems form."
WASP-4 and WASP-5 are the first planets discovered by the WASP project's
cameras in South Africa, and were confirmed by a collaboration with Swiss and
French astronomers. "These two are now the brightest transiting planets in the
Southern hemisphere" said Dr Hellier. WASP-3 is the third planet that the team
has found in the North, using the SuperWASP camera sited in the Canary Islands.
Dr Don Pollacco, of Queen's University Belfast, said "We are the only team to
have found transiting planets in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres; for
the first time we have both SuperWASP cameras running, giving complete coverage
of the whole sky."
Exoplanet expert Prof Andrew Cameron, of St. Andrews University, comments
"All three planets are similar to Jupiter, but are orbiting their stars so
closely that their 'year' lasts less than two days. These are among the shortest
orbital periods yet discovered.'' Being so close to their star the surface
temperatures of the planets will be more than 2000 degrees Celsius, so it is
unlikely that life as we know it could survive there. But the finding of
Jupiter-mass planets around other stars supports the idea that there are also
many Earth-sized planets waiting to be discovered as astronomers' technology
The WASP project is the most ambitious project in the world designed to
discover large planets. Funding for the project comes from the UK Universities
and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
Note: The discovery of WASP-3, WASP-4 and WASP-5
is being announced by the WASP project this week at an international conference
on extrasolar planets in Suzhou (near Shanghai), China.
Notes for Editors
Science and Technology Facilities Council
Tel: +44 (0)1793
Mobile: +44 (0)781 8013 509
Queen's University, Belfast
WASP Project Scientist
Tel: +44 (0)2890 973
Tel: +44 (0) 1782 584 243
St Andrews University
Tel: +44 (0)1334 463 147
An artist's impression of an extra solar planet
Photo credit: David A Hardy,
Further artists impressions of extra solar planets are available from Gill
Ormrod in the STFC press office (contact details above).
SuperWASP is the UK's
leading extra-solar planet detection program comprising of a consortium of eight
academic institutions which include Cambridge University, the Instituto de
Astrofisica de Canarias, the Isaac Newton Group of telescopes, Keele University,
Leicester University, the Open University, Queen's University Belfast and St.
A transit occurs when a planet passes in front of its star, blocking some
light and causing a small dip in the brightness of the star. The WASP
cameras monitor millions of stars, looking for these dips.
A planet around another star, rather than our Sun. Over 200 are currently
known to astronomers, but the majority have only periods firmly established and
are as massive as Jupiter.
An abbreviation of "extrasolar planet."
Arrays of wide-field cameras monitoring millions of stars for transit events.
One array of 8 cameras (SuperWASP) is sited in the Northern hemisphere, on La
Palma in the Canary Islands, and is operated by Queen's University Belfast. The
other array of 8 cameras is sited in the Southern hemisphere is South Africa,
and is operated by Keele University. Each camera consists of a 200mm f/1.8 lens
backed by a high-specification 2048x2048 CCD chip.
The acronym stands for "Wide Area Search for Planets", a consortium of UK
universities searching for transiting exoplanets.
WASP-3, WASP-4, WASP-5
The names given to planets discovered by the WASP project. WASP-1 and WASP-2
were discovered last year.
Page last updated: 31 October 2007 by Gill Ormrod