Astronomers spot one of the most densest planets in the known Universe

December 11th, 2008 - 2:46 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Dec 11 (ANI): Astronomers have used an ultra sensitive camera to measure the precise size of a planet around a distant star, and determine that it is one of the most densest planets in the known Universe.

The team studied a planet called WASP-10b, which was thought to have an unusually large diameter.

They were able to measure its diameter with much higher precision than before, leading to the finding that it is one of the densest planets known, rather than one of the most bloated.

The planet orbits the star WASP-10, which is about 300 light-years from Earth.

The camera, used by the team of astronomers led by John Johnson of the University of Hawaiis Institute for Astronomy (IfA), is so sensitive that it could detect the passage of a moth in front of a lit window from a distance of 1,000 miles.

IfA astronomer John Tonry designed the camera, known as OPTIC (Orthogonal Parallel Transfer Imaging Camera), and it was built at the IfA.

It uses a new type of detector, an orthogonal transfer array, the same type used in the Pan-STARRS 1.4 Gigapixel Camera, the largest digital camera in the world.

It is mounted on the UH 2.2-meter telescope on Mauna Kea, and it measures the small decrease in brightness that occurs when a planet passes in front of its star along the line-of-sight from Earth.

These planet transits allow researchers to measure the diameters of worlds outside our solar system. For the first time, scientists are approaching the precision needed to measure transits of Earth-size planets.

Bigger planets block more of the stars surface and cause a deeper brightness dip.

The diameter of WASP-10b is only 6 percent larger than that of Jupiter, even though WASP-10b is three times more massive.

Correspondingly, its density is about three times higher than Jupiters. (ANI)

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