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Astronomers identify nearly 80 exoplanets

Washington, June 23: Scientists have discovered nearly 80 new planetary candidates, amid some 50,000 stars, in a record two weeks after the data from the K2 mission’s — the follow-up mission to NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope — was available. The discovery was based on the analaysis of data from K2’s 16th and 17th observing campaigns, known as C16 and C17. It typically takes several months to a year for scientists to analyse graphs of light intensity called “lightcurves” from the tens of thousands of stars to find exoplanet candidates. Using existing tools, the researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) identified the planetary candidates in just two weeks.

Such a fast planet-search enables astronomers to follow up with ground-based telescopes much sooner than they otherwise would, giving them a chance to catch a glimpse of planetary candidates before the Earth passes by that particular patch of sky on its way around the sun, said Ian Crossfield, Assistant Professor at MIT. Such speed will also be a necessity when scientists start receiving data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) which is designed to monitor nearby stars in 30-day swaths and will ultimately cover nearly the entire sky. (IANS)