A W.M. Keck Observatory dataset covering two decades of observations of nearly 1,600 nearby stars has been released:
Today, a team that includes MIT and is led by the Carnegie Institution for Science has released the largest collection of observations made with a technique called radial velocity, to be used for hunting exoplanets. The huge dataset, taken over two decades by the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, is now available to the public, along with an open-source software package to process the data and an online tutorial. By making the data public and user-friendly, the scientists hope to draw fresh eyes to the observations, which encompass almost 61,000 measurements of more than 1,600 nearby stars.
"This is an amazing catalog, and we realized there just aren't enough of us on the team to be doing as much science as could come out of this dataset," says Jennifer Burt, a Torres Postdoctoral Fellow in MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. "We're trying to shift toward a more community-oriented idea of how we should do science, so that others can access the data and see something interesting." Burt and her colleagues have outlined some details of the newly available dataset in a paper to appear in The Astronomical Journal. After taking a look through the data themselves, the researchers have detected over 100 potential exoplanets, including one orbiting GJ 411, the fourth-closest star to our solar system.
An international team of astronomers released the largest-ever compilation of exoplanet-detecting observations made using a technique called the radial velocity method. They demonstrated how these observations can be used to hunt for planets by detecting more than 100 potential exoplanets, including one orbiting the fourth-closest star to our own Solar System, which is about 8.1 light years away from Earth. The paper is published in The Astronomical Journal.
[...] But the team is not just giving everyone the keys to their exoplanet-finder; they are also taking it out for a spin themselves. Mikko Tuomi of the University of Hertfordshire led a sophisticated statistical analysis of the large data set to tease out the periodic signals most likely to be planets. "We were very conservative in this paper about what counts as an exoplanet candidate and what does not," Tuomi explained, "and even with our stringent criteria, we found over 100 new likely planet candidates."
One of these probable planets is around a star called GJ 411, also known as Lalande 21185. It is the fourth-closest star to our own Sun and is only about 40 percent the mass of the Sun. The planet has a very short orbital period of just under 10 days, so it is no Earth-twin. However, the inferred planet, GJ 411b, continues a trend that has been seen in the overall population of detected exoplanets: the smallest planets are found around the smallest stars.