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UK astronomers discover 3 new planets

tech-reviews Updated: Nov 03, 2007 15:10 IST
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Britain's astronomers from the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP), a leading planet-hunting team, have announced the discovery of three new planets, according to a press release issued by Keele University.

These extra-solar planets named WASP-3, WASP-4 and WASP-5 were seen to transit their host star.

WASP-3 is the third planet that the team has found in the northern hemisphere, using the SuperWASP camera sited in the Canary Islands.

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.

WASP-4 and WASP-5 are now "the brightest transiting planets in the southern hemisphere," according to Coel Hellier of Keele University.

"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," he said Friday.

"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," said Don Pollacco, of Queen's University, Belfast.

Exoplanet expert Andrew Cameron of St Andrews University said: "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 2,000 degrees Celsius, so it is unlikely that life as we know it could survive there."

The WASP project is the world's most ambitious project designed to discover large planets. Funding for the project comes from the British universities and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.