Kiwi astronomer discovers huge planet
A Wairarapa astronomer based in England has discovered a ‘‘monster planet’’ orbiting a dwarf star.
Contradicting theories that a planet of its size could not be formed by such a small star, NGTS-1b is the largest planet compared to its star ever discovered.
The discovery was made using the Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) facility, designed to search for transiting planets on bright stars.
Dr Daniel Bayliss, formerly of Carterton, was the lead author of a paper released by University of Warwick announcing the discovery.
The discovery was a ‘‘complete surprise’’, he said.
‘‘Such massive planets were not thought to exist around such small stars. This is the first exoplanet we have found with our new NGTS facility and we are already challenging the received wisdom of how planets form.
‘‘Our challenge is to now find out how common these types of planets are in the galaxy,’’ Bayliss said.
The planet has a larger diameter than our solar system’s largest gas giant Jupiter, but its star is half the size of our sun.
These proportions are a significant discovery and, given that this red M-dwarf is the most common type of star in the universe, there could be many more large planets in the universe than previously calculated.
To get more information about the mass of NGTS-1b, another telescope was used to observe the oscillation of the star. This meant researchers were able to calculate how big and how dense the planet was.
Bayliss said he and the team of 50-odd people who worked on the project were very excited to announce the discovery.
‘‘After a couple of years working on it, it is good to get it published and get it out there.
‘‘It’s exciting and hopefully there is a lot more to come. The fact that we can see these planets around small stars now gives us hope that we can make real progress into finding more of these and working out how many there are. It feels a little bit like the tip of an iceberg.’’
Bayliss went to Gladstone Pri- mary School in rural Carterton where he had his first chance to look through a telescope.
He later attended Rathkeale College where he was awarded dux. After secondary school he gained a BSc at Auckland University and honours at Victoria University in Wellington.
An artist’s impression of exoplanet NGTS1b discovered by NZ astronomer Daniel Bayliss.