The Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) project has discovered three new planets using its robotic observatories designed to detect exoplanets using transiting techniques.
SuperWASP is the UK’s leading extra-solar planet detection programme run by a consortium comprising eight academic institutions: Cambridge University, the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, the Isaac Newton Group of telescopes, Keele University, Leicester University, the Open University, Queen’s University Belfast and St Andrew’s University.
The newly discovered extra-solar planets were seen by the observatories to pass in front of, or transit, their host star. Studying such planets outside of our Solar System allows scientists to investigate how planetary systems form. WASP is the first team to detect planets in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere using this technique.
Dr Coel Hellier, of Keele University, said: ‘When we see a transit we can deduce the size and mass of the planet and also what it is made of, so we can use these planets to study how solar systems form.’
WASP-4 and WASP-5 are the first planets discovered by the WASP project’s cameras in South Africa, and were confirmed by collaboration with Swiss and French astronomers.
WASP-3 is the third planet that the team has found in the north, using the SuperWASP camera sited in the Canary Islands.
Dr Don Pollacco, of Queen’s University Belfast, said: ‘We are the only team to have found transiting planets in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. For the first time we have both SuperWASP cameras running, giving complete coverage of the whole sky.’