Keele planet discoveries on Horizon

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Posted on 16 March 2015

BBC2's flagship science programme, Horizon, dedicated last week's episode to 'Secrets of the Solar System', explaining how the discovery and understanding of extra-solar planets had led directly to improvements in our understanding of our own Solar System.

Hellier_Cole 90x90 A major part of this picture has been developed through understanding 'hot Jupiters', a class of planets which is dominated by discoveries from Keele's WASP-South planet search, led by Professor Coel Hellier.  In particular the finding of hot Jupiters in retrograde orbits around their star was based on WASP-South planets, starting with WASP-17b.  The programme, typically watched by two million in the UK and re-broadcast worldwide, featured a 20-minute disucssion of hot Jupiter anchored around an observation of WASP-84b using the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo on La Palma.

WASP-84b is a WASP-South planet that was announced in a 2014 paper led by Keele postdoc David Anderson. The finding of an aligned orbit for this planet, annouced in a 2015 follow-up paper, also led by Anderson, is evidence that this particular planet has migrated inwards to its current orbit by interaction with the proto-planetary disk, and not by a close encounter with another large planet.  The programme showed how WASP discoveries are having a direct impact on our understanding of our Solar System, and thus the origin of our own Earth.