'Alien' planet detected circling dying star
Published: 18th Nov 2010 19:03:23
Astronomers claim to have discovered the first planet originating from outside our galaxy.
The Jupiter-like planet, they say, is part of a solar system which once belonged to a dwarf galaxy.
This dwarf galaxy was in turn devoured by our own galaxy, the Milky Way, according to a team writing in the academic journal Science.
The star, called HIP 13044, is nearing the end of its life and is 2000 light years from Earth.
The discovery was made using a telescope in Chile.
Planet hunters have so far netted nearly 500 so-called "exoplanets" outside our Solar System using various astronomical techniques.
A video shows how the distant solar system may appear
But all of those so far discovered, say the researchers, are indigenous to our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
This find is different, they say, because the planet circles a sun which belongs to a group of stars called the "Helmi stream" which are known to have once belonged to a separate dwarf galaxy.
This galaxy was gobbled up by the Milky Way between six and nine billion years ago in an act of intergalactic cannibalism.
The new planet is thought to have a minimum mass 1.25 times that of Jupiter and circles in close proximity to its parent star, with an orbit lasting just 16.2 days.
It sits in the southern constellation of Fornax.
The planet would have been formed in the early era of its solar system, before the world was incorporated into our own galaxy, say the researchers.
"This discovery is very exciting," said Rainer Klement of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, who targetted the stars in the study.
"For the first time, astronomers have detected a planetary system in a stellar stream of extragalactic origin. This cosmic merger has brought an extragalactic planet within our reach."
Dr Robert Massey of the UK's Royal Astronomical Society said the paper provided the first "hard evidence" of a planet of extragalactic origin.
"There's every reason to believe that planets are really quite widespread throughout the Universe, not just in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, but also in the thousands of millions of others there are," he said, "but this is the first time we've got hard evidence of that."
The new find might also offer us a glimpse of what the final days of our own Solar System may look like.
HIP 13044 is nearing its end. Having consumed all the hydrogen fuel in its core, it expanded massively into a "red giant" and might have eaten up smaller rocky planets like our own Earth in the process, before contracting.
The new Jupiter-like planet discovered appears to have survived the fireball, for the moment.
"This discovery is particularly intriguing when we consider the distant future of our own planetary system, as the Sun is also expected to become a red giant in about five billion years," said Dr Johny Setiawan, who also works at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, and who led the study.
"The star is rotating relatively quickly," he said. "One explanation is that HIP 13044 swallowed its inner planets during the red giant phase, which would make the star spin more quickly."
The new planet was discovered using what is called the "radial velocity method" which involves detecting small wobbles in a star caused by a planet as it tugs on its sun.
These wobbles were picked up using a ground-based telescope at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla facility in Chile.
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2010. 'Alien' planet detected circling dying star [Online] (Updated 18th Nov 2010)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/109193/Alien-planet-detected-circling-dying-star [Accessed 16th Apr 2014]
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With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
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