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  • richardmitnick 11:47 am on June 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NGTS discovers a ‘forbidden planet in the Neptunian desert’", , , , , , ESO NGTS   

    From DLR German Aerospace Center: “NGTS discovers a ‘forbidden planet in the Neptunian desert’” 

    DLR Bloc

    From DLR German Aerospace Center

    29 May 2019


    Melanie-Konstanze Wiese
    German Aerospace Center (DLR)
    Tel.: +49 30 67055-639
    Fax: +49 30 67055-102

    Dr. rer. nat. Ruth Titz-Weider
    German Aerospace Center (DLR)
    Extrasolar Planets and Atmospheres
    Tel.: +49 30 67055-185

    Dr Philipp Eigmüller
    German Aerospace Center (DLR)
    DLR Institute of Planetary Research
    Tel.: +49 30 67055-163

    ESO Next Generation Transit Survey

    The DLR-funded Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) telescope array has found a planet in the ‘Neptunian desert’ – the region close to a star where scientists had long believed that there were no planets of this size. The signals used to detect the planet NGTS-4b are the weakest ever detected by a ground-based search programme. Focus: Exploration, exoplanets, planetary research

    Planets located near stars must endure a lot – from powerful solar winds to intense X-rays and strong ultraviolet radiation. The area where a planet is so close to its host star that it can complete its orbit in less than four Earth days and in which there are no Neptune-sized planets is referred to as the ‘Neptunian desert’. This is a reference to the fact that, until now, no medium-sized planets similar to Neptune have been found at this distance – only large planets comparable with Jupiter and smaller planets like Mars. This has now changed; in 2018, a group of researchers in Chile, co-funded by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) used one of the telescopes in the Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) array to discover a planet in one such Neptunian desert. The planet has been named NGTS-4b as it is orbiting the dwarf star NGTS-4, which is located approximately 900 light years from the Solar System.

    Planet NGTS-4b has an orbital period of just 32 hours – equivalent to just over one-and-a-quarter Earth days. This is many times shorter than even Mercury – the planet with the shortest year within the Solar System – which has a year that lasts 88 Earth days. With an estimated diameter of almost 40,000 kilometres, NGTS-4b is about 20 percent smaller than Neptune and has three times the radius of Earth. Many of the nearly 4000 previously discovered extrasolar planets have similar dimensions. However, multi-planetary systems – in which planets orbit a star at Earth-like or greater distances and at a comparatively ‘leisurely’ speed – are still the exception in the exoplanet catalogues.

    How does NGTS-4b resist atmosphere stripping?

    The atmospheric properties of NGTS-4b have made its discovery extremely significant within the scientific community. “It is thought that NGTS-4b has only survived because it has a particularly large core, or because it migrated close to its host star only at a later stage, once the star’s radiation had already reduced,” says Philipp Eigmüller, one of the six scientists from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin who were involved in the discovery. Normally, a planet with the mass of Neptune and a similar composition would very quickly lose its shell of hydrogen and helium due to the strong radiation from its host star, leaving only the exposed core. A similar scenario is also under discussion for the early evolution of the planet Mercury. Larger bodies exert a stronger attraction on their outer shell because of their greater mass and thus prevent the loss of their atmosphere.

    The image shows the distribution of exoplanets by mass (Y-axis) and orbital period (X-axis). The newly discovered planet NGTS-4b lies in the Neptunian desert, a relatively sparsely populated area (image after Eigmüller, Sterne und Weltraum, May 2019).

    The NGTS telescope array has detected the weakest transit signal to date

    The NGTS telescope array has 12 automatic telescopes that use the transit method to search for planets in other star systems. Each telescope observes a section of sky that is approximately three degrees across. The telescopes record the very small dip in brightness that occurs when a planet passes in front of its host star.

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    The transit signals of the planet that has now been discovered are the weakest with which a planet has ever been discovered from the ground. The star NGTS-4 is not visible from Earth with the naked eye. Its apparent brightness is about the same as that of Pluto, on the outer edge of the Solar System – over six million times lower than the apparent brightness of Jupiter. During its transits, NGTS-4b decreases the brightness of its hosts star by only approximately 0.13 percent. No other ground-based search programme is capable of detecting such weak signals.

    Data from the NGTS telescope array are freely available

    Since the telescope array began searching for extrasolar planets in 2016, 1.7 terabytes of data have been made available. This includes measurements of 200,000 stars and their light curves. The discovery of four planets has been confirmed since NGTS was commissioned. Approximately 4000 extrasolar planets are known today. “Each one is like a piece of the puzzle with which we can understand more and more about the formation and evolution of planets,” says Eigmüller. The data from the first year of observations by NGTS with all 12 telescopes (April 2016 – April 2017) are freely accessible online in the ESO Archive and are open to evaluation by scientists all over the world.

    About NGTS

    The Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) telescope array was built by a consortium of British, Swiss and German institutions and is located at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. There, it benefits from excellent observing conditions and technical support from the other facilities. It is designed for large-scale sky surveys and was funded largely by DLR, which provided eight of the 12 cameras. Scientists from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research evaluate the data as part of an international team. NGTS is designed in such a way that it continuously and fully automatically measures the brightness of several hundred thousand comparatively bright stars in the southern sky as it searches for exoplanet transits.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    DLR Center

    DLR is the national aeronautics and space research centre of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its extensive research and development work in aeronautics, space, energy, transport and security is integrated into national and international cooperative ventures. In addition to its own research, as Germany’s space agency, DLR has been given responsibility by the federal government for the planning and implementation of the German space programme. DLR is also the umbrella organisation for the nation’s largest project management agency.

    DLR has approximately 8000 employees at 16 locations in Germany: Cologne (headquarters), Augsburg, Berlin, Bonn, Braunschweig, Bremen, Goettingen, Hamburg, Juelich, Lampoldshausen, Neustrelitz, Oberpfaffenhofen, Stade, Stuttgart, Trauen, and Weilheim. DLR also has offices in Brussels, Paris, Tokyo and Washington D.C.

  • richardmitnick 2:45 pm on January 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESO NGTS,   

    From ESO- “ESOcast 71: New Exoplanet-hunting Telescopes on Paranal” 

    European Southern Observatory

    This ESOcast takes a close look at an unusual new group of small telescopes that has recently achieved first light at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile.

    Watch, enjoy, learn.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition
    Visit ESO in Social Media-




    ESO Main

    ESO, European Southern Observatory, builds and operates a suite of the world’s most advanced ground-based astronomical telescopes.

  • richardmitnick 7:26 am on January 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESO NGTS,   

    From ESO: “New Exoplanet-hunting Telescopes on Paranal” 

    European Southern Observatory

    14 January 2015
    Peter Wheatley
    University of Warwick
    Coventry, United Kingdom
    Tel: +44 247 657 4330
    Email: P.J.Wheatley@warwick.ac.uk

    Heike Rauer
    Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) / Institut für Planetenforschung
    Berlin, Germany
    Tel: +49 30 67055 430
    Email: heike.rauer@dlr.de

    Stéphane Udry
    Observatoire de l’Université de Genève
    Geneva, Switzerland
    Tel: +41 22 379 24 67
    Email: stephane.udry@unige.ch

    Ather Mirza
    University of Leicester
    Leicester, United Kingdom
    Tel: +44 116 252 3335
    Email: pressoffice@le.ac.uk

    David Azocar
    Universidad de Chile
    Santiago, Chile
    Email: dazocar@das.uchile.cl

    Richard Hook
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany

    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    The Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) has achieved first light at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. This project will search for transiting exoplanets — planets that pass in front of their parent star and hence produce a slight dimming of the star’s light that can be detected by sensitive instruments. The telescopes will focus on discovering Neptune-sized and smaller planets, with diameters between two and eight times that of Earth.


    ESO Paranal Facilities

    The Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) is a wide-field observing system made up of an array of twelve telescopes, each with an aperture of 20 centimetres [1]. This new facility, built by a UK, Swiss and German consortium, is located at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile and benefits from the superb observing conditions and excellent support facilities available at this site.

    “We needed a site where there were many clear nights and the air was clear and dry so that we could make very accurate measurements as often as possible — Paranal was the best choice by far,” says Don Pollacco of the University of Warwick in the UK and one of the NGTS project leads.

    NGTS is designed to operate in a robotic mode and it will continuously monitor the brightness of hundreds of thousands of comparatively bright stars in the southern skies. It is searching for transiting exoplanets and will reach a level of accuracy in measuring the brightness of stars — one part in a thousand — that has never before been attained with a ground-based wide-field survey instrument [2].

    This great accuracy of brightness measurement, across a wide field, is technically demanding, but all the key technologies needed for NGTS were demonstrated using a smaller prototype system, which operated on La Palma in the Canary Islands during 2009 and 2010. NGTS also builds on the success of the SuperWASP experiment, which up to now leads in the detection of large gaseous planets.

    The discoveries of NGTS will be studied further using other larger telescopes, including the ESO Very Large Telescope[pictured above]. One goal is to find small planets that are bright enough for the planetary mass to be measured. This will allow planetary densities to be deduced, which in turn provides clues about the composition of the planets. It may also be possible to probe the atmospheres of the exoplanets whilst they are in transit. During the transit some of the star’s light passes through the planet’s atmosphere, if it has one, and leaves a tiny, but detectable, signature. So far only a few such very delicate observations have been made, but NGTS should provide many more potential targets.

    This is the first telescope project hosted, but not operated, by ESO on Paranal. Several telescope projects operating under similar arrangements are already at work at the older La Silla Observatory. The NGTS data will flow into the ESO archive system and will be available to astronomers worldwide for decades to come.

    ESO LaSilla Long View
    ESO at LaSilla

    Peter Wheatley, one of the NGTS project leads from the University of Warwick, concludes: “We are excited to begin our search for small planets around nearby stars. The NGTS discoveries, and follow-up observations by telescopes on the ground and in space, will be important steps in our quest to study the atmospheres and composition of small planets such as the Earth.”

    The NGTS Consortium is composed of the University of Warwick, UK; the Queen’s University of Belfast, UK; the University of Leicester, UK; the University of Cambridge, UK; Geneva University, Switzerland and DLR Berlin, Germany.

    [1] The NGTS telescopes are modified versions of small high-quality commercial telescopes made by Astro Systeme Austria (ASA). The NGTS cameras are modified ikon-L cameras by Andor Technology Ltd (http://www.andor.com) built around red-sensitive deep-depletion CCDs by e2v (http://www.e2v.com).

    [2] NASA’s orbiting Kepler mission has a higher accuracy of stellar brightness measurement but probes a smaller region of the sky than NGTS. The wider NGTS search will find brighter examples of small exoplanets that are better suited for detailed study.

    NASA Kepler Telescope

    See the full article here.

    SuperWASP telescope
    SuperWASP is the UK’s leading extra-solar planet detection programme. It originally comprised a consortium of eight academic institutions: Cambridge University, the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, the Isaac Newton Group of telescopes, Keele University, Leicester University, the Open University, Queen’s University Belfast and St. Andrews University. The WASP project is currently funded and operated by Warwick University and Keele University.

    SuperWASP consists of two robotic observatories that operate continuously all year around, allowing us to cover both hemispheres of the sky. The first, SuperWASP-North is located on the island of La Palma amongst the Isaac Newton Group of telescopes (ING). The second, SuperWASP-South is located at the site of the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), just outside Sutherland, South Africa. The observatories each consist of eight wide-angle cameras that simultaneously monitor the sky for planetary transit events. A transit occurs when a planet passes in front of its parent star temporarily blocking some of the light from it. The eight wide-angle cameras allow us to monitor millions of stars simultaneously enabling us to detect the rare transit events.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition
    Visit ESO in Social Media-




    ESO Main

    ESO, European Southern Observatory, builds and operates a suite of the world’s most advanced ground-based astronomical telescopes.

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