Keplers first-ever exoplanet discovery finally confirmed

  • Keplers first-ever exoplanet discovery finally confirmed

Keplers first-ever exoplanet discovery finally confirmed

An global team of astronomers, led by University of Hawaii graduate student Ashley Chontos, announced the confirmation of the first exoplanet candidate identified by NASA's Kepler Mission.

An artist's illustration of a Kepler-1658-like system.

Ten years after it was launched, the first exoplanet candidate spotted by NASA's Kepler space telescope has finally been confirmed as a real world, scientists say.

Kepler 1658b is so close to its sun, from the surface, the star would appear 60-times wider than the Sun does from Earth. Another common ratio for planetary orbits is 3-to-2 - three orbits of the closer planet for two orbits of the planet that's farther away, lead study author Sarah Millholland, a doctoral candidate in the Astronomy Department at Yale University in CT, told Live Science in an email. As a component of her first-year research project, lead creator Ashley Chontos, a graduate understudy with the university's Institute for Astronomy, revisited Kepler information searching for targets to reanalysed in 2017.

"Our new analysis, which uses stellar sound waves observed in the Kepler data to characterize the host star, demonstrated that the star is in fact three times larger than previously thought".

Dan Huber, co-author, and an astronomer at the University of Hawaii said, "We alerted Dave Latham (a senior astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and co-author on the paper) and his team collected the necessary spectroscopic data to unambiguously show that Kepler-1658b is a planet".

Reference: "The Curious Case of KOI 4: Confirming Kepler's First Exoplanet Detection", A. Chontos et al., 2019, to appear in the Astronomical Journal [http://aj.aas.org, preprint (PDF): http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/~dhuber/docs/kepler1658-accepted.pdf]. One possible reason is that hot Jupiters eventually spiral into their host stars.

When Kepler-1658-b was first identified as a candidate, initial estimates of its host star were some way off. The planet orbits closely, only about twice the star's diameter away from it.

However, new analysis of Kepler's data conducted by an global team of scientists has shown that 1658-b is, in fact, a planet. It's rare to find planets orbiting such "evolved" stars, discovery team members said.

According to the findings, Kepler 1658-b is so close to its star that it completes an orbit once every 3.85 Earth days.

"This in turn means that the planet is three times larger, revealing that Kepler-1658 b is actually a hot Jupiter-like planet", Chontos said in a statement.

Kepler-1658 is a future version of our own star.

But numerous paired exoplanets found by Kepler defied those rules. When the numbers didn't add up, scientists thought they had made a mistake and said the data didn't point to a planet.

TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, launched in April 2018 and is the newest planet hunter for NASA. The spacecraft is responsible for almost 70 percent of the roughly 3,900 exoplanet discoveries to date.