Out of This World Discovery by Citizen Scientists: Two Gaseous Planets Around a Bright Sun-Like Star - SciTechDaily
Jun 13, 2021 3 mins, 16 secs
These planets were discovered through the citizen science project Planet Hunters TESS, in collaboration with professional scientists.

Cesar Rubio is one of thousands of volunteers participating in Planet Hunters TESS, a NASA-funded citizen science project that looks for evidence of planets beyond our solar system, or exoplanets.

Citizen science is a way for members of the public to collaborate with scientists.

More than 29,000 people worldwide have joined the Planet Hunters TESS effort to help scientists find exoplanets.

Planet Hunters TESS has now announced the discovery of two exoplanets in a study published online in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, listing Rubio and more than a dozen other citizen scientists as co-authors.

Planet b, about the size of Neptune, is about 3.4 times bigger than Earth, and completes an orbit around its star in about 12 days.

Planet c, the outer planet, is about 5.8 times bigger than Earth, making it a “sub-Saturn,” and its orbital period is somewhere between 19 and 35 days.

The Planet Hunters project shares each brightness plot, called a “light curve,” with 15 volunteers.

In the case of HD 152843, citizen scientists looked at a plot showing its brightness during one month of TESS observations.

All 15 citizen scientists who looked at this light curve flagged at least two transits, and some flagged the light curve on the Planet Hunters TESS online discussion forum.

By comparing the data to their models, they estimated that two transits came from the inner planet and the other came from a second, outer planet.

To make sure the transit signals came from planets and not some other source, such as stars that eclipse each other, passing asteroids, or the movements of TESS itself, scientists needed to look at the star with a different method.

While scientists could not get a signal clear enough to pinpoint the planets’ masses, they got enough radial velocity data to make mass estimates — about 12 times the mass of Earth for planet b and about 28 times the mass of Earth for planet c.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, launching later this year, will be able to look at what kinds of molecules make up the atmospheres of planets like those in this system, especially the larger outer planet.

The HD 152843 planets are far too hot and gaseous to support life as we know it, but they are valuable to study as scientists learn about the range of possible planets in our galaxy.

The citizen scientists who classified the HD 152843 light curve as a possible source of transiting planets, in addition to three Planet Hunters discussion forum moderators, were invited to have their names listed as co-authors on the study announcing the discovery of these planets.

So far, he has classified more than 10,000 light curves through Planet Hunters TESS.

Elisabeth Baeten of Leuven, Belgium, another co-author, works in the administration of reinsurance, and says classifying light curves on Planet Hunters TESS is “relaxing.” Interested in astronomy since childhood, she was one of the original volunteers of Galaxy Zoo, an astronomy citizen science project that started in 2007.

The two sometimes look at the Planet Hunters TESS website together.

NASA has a wide variety of citizen science collaborations across topics ranging from Earth science to the Sun to the wider universe.

Reference: “Planet Hunters TESS III: two transiting planets around the bright G dwarf HD 152843” by N L Eisner, B A Nicholson, O Barragán, S Aigrain, C Lintott, L Kaye, B Klein, G Miller, J Taylor, N Zicher, L A Buchhave, D A Caldwell, J Horner, J Llama, A Mortier, V M Rajpaul, K Stassun, A Sporer, A Tkachenko, J M Jenkins, D Latham, G Ricker, S Seager, J Winn, S Alhassan, E M L Baeten, S J Bean, D M Bundy, V Efremov, R Ferstenou, B L Goodwin, M Hof, T Hoffman, A Hubert, L Lau, S Lee, D Maetschke, K Peltsch, C Rubio-Alfaro and G M Wilson, 12 May 2021, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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