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New LEECH Survey Reveals Inner Region of a Young Star and Its Planets

First Posted: Apr 20, 2015 08:58 AM EDT
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Astronomers have uncovered the inner region of a young star and its planets located 130 light-years from Earth. The findings mark the first results of a new exoplanet survey called LEECH (LBT Exozodi Exoplanet Common Hunt).

In this case, astronomers examined the planetary system, HR8799. This is a young star that's only about 30 million years old. It's the first to be directly imaged with three planets found in 2008 and a fourth one discovered in 2010.

"This star was therefore a target of choice for the LEECH survey, offering the opportunity to acquire new images and better define the dynamical properties of the exoplanets orbiting," said Christian Veillet, one of the researchers, in a news release.

The LEECH survey began at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in southeastern Arizona. The LBT allows the astronomers to look at planets at a wavelength that no one else is really using: the L' band.

"Because they are gas giants and still very young, they glow nicely at the L' band, and because they appear so bright there, they stand out, allowing us to observe closer to the star," said Veillet. "This has allowed us to nail down the orbits of this system, which is pretty far away."

In the end, the researchers were able to constrain the orbital parameters of the four known giant planets and the physical properties of a putative fifth planet inside the known planets.

"Our observations give us a good idea that this system is pretty stable," said Veillet. "In other words, there is no indication those planets are going to collide with each other in a few million years."

The findings are published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

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