St Albans-based astronomer helps discover 60 new planets

A University of Hertfordshire astronomer has helped discover 60 new planets.

A University of Hertfordshire astronomer has helped discover 60 new planets. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A St Albans-based scientist has helped a team of fellow astronomers discover 60 new planets orbiting stars near Earth’s Solar System.

Dr Mikko Tuomi of the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Astrophysics Research, who is from St Albans, helped an international team discover the new extrasolar planets, as well as further evidence of another 54 planets.

The team described the planets as being “in our immediate solar neighbourhood” and said one in particular, Gliese 411b, is of particular interest.

Gliese 411b is a hot planet with a rocky surface in the fourth nearest star system to the Sun, and the third nearest planetary system. The discovery shows that virtually all the nearest stars to the Sun are orbited by planets which could be like Earth.

To reach these results a team of US astronomers used the Keck-I telescope in Hawaii over a 20-year period to obtain almost 61,000 individual observations of 1,600 stars.

Dr Tuomi, the only European researcher on the project, said: “It is fascinating to think that when we look at the nearest stars, all of them appear to have planets orbiting them. This is something astronomers were not convinced about, even as little as five years ago.

“These new planets also help us better understand the formation processes of planetary systems and provide interesting targets for future efforts to image the planets directly.”