From Universe Today: “Astronomers Find Comets Orbiting a Star 800 Light-Years Away”


Universe Today

30 Oct , 2017
Matt Williams

An artist’s conception of a view from within the Exocomet system KIC 3542116.. Credit: Danielle Futselaar

In the past thirty years, thousands of extra-solar planets have been discovered beyond our Solar System. For the most part, they have been detected by the Kepler Space Telescope using a technique called Transit Photometry.

NASA/Kepler Telescope

Planet transit. NASA/Ames

For this method, astronomers measure periodic dips in a star’s brightness – which are the result of planets passing in front of them relative to an observer – to confirm the presence of planets.

Thanks to a new research effort conducted by a team of professional and amateur astronomers, something much smaller than planets were recently detected orbiting a distant star. According to a new study published by the research team, six exocomets were observed orbiting around KIC 3542116, a spectral type F2V star located 800 light years from Earth. These comets are the smallest objects to date detecting the Transit Photometry method.

The study which details their findings, titled Likely Transiting Exocomets Detected by Kepler, recently appeared in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Led by Saul Rappaport of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, the team also consisted of amateur astronomers, members of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), the University of Texas, Northeastern University, and NASA’s Ames Research Center.

See the full article here .

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