Project support for the Wide Area Search for Planets

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Mathematics and Physics


Questions such as ``how many stars have planets around them?'' and ``how many habitable planets are there?'' interest both astronomers and everyone else. To answer them we need to find planets that can be studied in detail, seeking to understand the processes by which planets form and solar systems evolve. Of the two hundred planets that astronomers have found orbiting other stars we can learn most about those that transit in front of their star. We can measure how big they are, how heavy they are, and thus deduce their density and what they are made of. And by looking at how their atmosphere absorbs the light of their star we can discover the composition of their atmospheres. The WASP project aims to monitor 40 million of the brightest stars, looking for the tiny dips in their light caused by a planet passing in front of them. We will survey the sky for the transiting planets that are relatively close to Earth, which we can study in detail to enable us to understand how planetary systems form and evolve. The next generation of space missions, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to Hubble, will prioritize the study of planets around other stars. The WASP project will find the planets that will make the best and most interesting targets.


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Triaud A (2015) WASP-80b has a dayside within the T-dwarf range in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Smith A (2009) A SuperWASP search for additional transiting planets in 24 known systems in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society