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Citizen science bags five-planet haul

From BBC - January 12, 2018

A discovery by citizen scientists has led to the confirmation of a system of five planets orbiting a far-off star.

Furthermore, the planets' orbits are linked in a mathematical relationship called a resonance chain, with a pattern that is unique among the known planetary systems in our galaxy.

Studying the system could help unlock some mysteries surrounding the formation of planetary systems.

The results were announced at the 231st American Astronomical Society meeting.

The system was found by astronomy enthusiasts using Zooniverse, an online platform for crowdsourcing research.

"People anywhere can log on and learn what real signals from exoplanets look like, and then look through actual data collected from the Kepler telescope to vote on whether or not to classify a given signal as a transit, or just noise," said co-author Dr Jesse Christiansen, from Caltech in Pasadena.

Since the discovery of four planets in this system was announced last year, Dr Christiansen has been working to shed further light on this distant planetary neighbourhood, dubbed K2-138. This led to the discovery of the fifth planet and hints of a sixth.

All the worlds are a bit bigger than our own planet, ranging between 1.6 and 3.3 times the radius of Earth.

The collected findings have now been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.

The raw data used in the discovery was provided by Nasa's Kepler space telescope, which identifies potential planets around other stars by looking for dips in the brightness of those stars when planets pass across their face - or transit them.

Links in a chain

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