Researchers, including volunteers and professional scientists, have found planet, named as PH1 (Planet Hunters 1), in the four star system, named as KIC 4862625, using citizen science astronomy website; planethunters.org. Previously, scientists found a number of planets with two stars.
The paper is presented at the arXiv preprint service and has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal.
Researchers found that PH1 is orbiting two stars, which are also orbited by two stars. This quadruple star system is located about 3,200 light-years away from Earth.
Citizen scientists Kian Jek of San Francisco and Robert Gagliano of Cottonwood, Arizona, scanned data from the website containing information for the stars captured by NASA’s Kepler space telescope.
“Circumbinary planets are the extremes of planet formation,” said Meg Schwamb of Yale, lead author of the paper about the system presented Oct. 15 at the annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Reno, Nevada. “The discovery of these systems is forcing us to go back to the drawing board to understand how such planets can assemble and evolve in these dynamically challenging environments.”
PH1 is slightly larger than Neptune with the physical body of a gas giant having a radius 6.2 times that of Earth. Its mass is about half that of Jupiter. The binary stars have nearly 1.5 and 0.41 times the mass of the sun and they orbit one another with a period of 20 days.
“The thousands of people who are involved with Planet Hunters are performing a valuable service,” said coauthor Jerome Orosz, who earned his Ph.D. at Yale in 1996 and is now associate professor of astronomy at San Diego State University. “Many of the automated techniques used to find interesting features in the Kepler data don’t always work as efficiently as we would like. The hard work of the Planet Hunters helps ensure that important discoveries are not falling through the cracks.”
Gagliano, one of the two citizen scientists in the discovery, said he was “absolutely ecstatic to spot a small dip in the eclipsing binary star’s light curve from the Kepler telescope, the signature of a potential new circumbinary planet.” He continued, “It’s a great honor to be a Planet Hunter, citizen scientist, and to work hand-in-hand with professional astronomers, making a real contribution to science.”
Megan E. Schwamb, Jerome A. Orosz, Joshua A. Carter, William F. Welsh, Debra A. Fischer, Guillermo Torres, Andrew W. Howard, Justin R. Crepp, William C. Keel, Chris J. Lintott, Nathan A. Kaib, Dirk Terrell, Robert Gagliano, Kian J. Jek, Michael Parrish, Arfon M. Smith, Stuart Lynn, Robert J. Simpson, Matthew J. Giguere, Kevin Schawinski, (2012). Planet Hunters: A Transiting Circumbinary Planet in a Quadruple Star System. Submitted to ApJ