UBC Student Finds Four New Planets Via NASA’s Kepler Telescope

First Posted: Jun 01, 2016 07:42 AM EDT

New planets have been found by a student from the UBC. According to reports, Michelle Kunimoto discovered the planets while looking through the light curves gathered by NASA's Kepler space telescope. The 22-year old student appears to have come across the planets while combing through the details, which other scientists have failed to notice.

On finding the new planets, Kunimoto said that she looked for subtle dips in the brightness of the star when a planet goes in front of it, saying that a star is only a pinpoint of light. As explained by NASA's Kepler executive council member Jaymie Matthews, who is also Kunimoto's astronomy professor, the experts did not go through the data that Kunimoto looked over because it came to low signal levels that oftentimes create false alarms. However, Matthews is certain that the new planets discovered by Kunimoto will be confirmed, Global News reported.

As for Kunimoto's methodology, Matthews likened it to finding something in the grass of a backyard, noting that if it is a large tool that pops up twice as high as the grass' level, it is not difficult to see from the distance. But if it is like an engagement ring, the professor said that it has to be looked really closely.  

According to reports, two of the planets have the same size as the Earth, while the other can be compared to Mercury and the fourth is about the size of Neptune. This Neptune-sized orb, which is located 3,200 light years away and labelled as KOI-408.05 for now, is the most mysterious discovery because it is located in the habitable region of the star it orbits, where life and the liquid water may exist.

The new planets discover Kunimoto has just earned her bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics on Monday, and will start work on her master's at the UBC in September. Given the fact that majority of people looking for the same information or from the Kepler telescope are at least already graduate students, is the reason why Matthews think she might be the youngest astronomer to discover an exoplanet, according to CBC.

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