When listing the major scientific powers, the tiny nation of Qatar is not one that generally comes to mind. However, a Qatar astronomer, partnered with teams from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) as well as other institutions has just discovered a new exoplanet, dubbed Qatar-1b.
The planet itself, is another in the class of hot Jupiters which are massive, gassy planets that orbit their stars extremely closely. It has an orbital period of 1.4 days and is expected to be tidally locked with its parent star, a K type star.
It was discovered by a set of wide angle cameras located in New Mexico which are capable of surveying a large number of stars at a single time. The goal was to find planets that eclipsed the parent star and would thus show regular variations in their light curve. Images taken from this system were then sent to teams working at Universities in St. Andrews, Leicester, and Qatar. These teams processed the images and narrowed the stars down to a list of a few hundred candidates to be studied further.
From there Dr. Khalid Al Subai as well as the Harvard CfA team used the Smithsonian’s Whipple 48-inch telescope to more accurately measure the transits as well as as their 60-inch telescope to make spectroscopic observations to weed out binary star systems. These observations confirmed the existence of the planet.
“The discovery of Qatar-1b is a great achievement — one that further demonstrates Qatar’s commitment to becoming a leader in innovative science and research,” said Al Subai. Indeed, in the past 15 years, Qatar has undergone a large revolution towards science and education. Many universities have begun to open remote campuses, including Carnegie Mellon and Texas A&M. A more comprehensive list of science initiatives can be found here.
“The discovery of Qatar-1b is a wonderful example of how science and modern communications can erase international borders and time zones. No one owns the stars. We can all be inspired by the discovery of distant worlds,” said CfA team member David Latham.