Astronomers have just announced that the very first candidate detected by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has finally been confirmed as an exoplanet, making Kepler-1658b a happy new addition to known exoplanets.
As Phys.org reports, the Kepler Space Telescope first began its mission very close to 10 years ago and has so far found thousands of exoplanets in space. It has discovered these planets through the transmit method, by detecting extremely tiny dips in the brightness of stars which often occurs when planets move in and out of the paths of these stars.
However, as other phenomena can also cause the dimming of stars, Kepler analyzes all of its data on these exoplanet candidates before it makes its confirmation. In this case, even though Kepler-1658b was the first ever exoplanet candidate, it has taken many years to confirm it as a real planet.
Part of the reason why this process has taken so long is because the first estimate of the size of Kepler-1658b’s host star was not quite right, and because the sizes of the host star and exoplanet were judged incorrectly, astronomers had a lot of work to do before they could verify exoplanet activity.
But despite this setback, once University of Hawaii graduate student Ashley Chontos arrived on the scene, the confusion about this candidate was swiftly cleared up.
With Chontos focusing on Kepler-1658b as a graduate research project, further work was put into analyzing this candidate, and as Chontos has noted, using stellar sound waves solidified its exoplanet status, and also showed that this planet was much larger than originally estimated.
“Our new analysis, which uses stellar sound waves observed in the Kepler data to characterize the host star, demonstrated that the star is in fact three times larger than previously thought. This in turn means that the planet is three times larger, revealing that Kepler-1658 b is actually a hot Jupiter-like planet.”
— Phys.org (@physorg_com) March 5, 2019
Kepler-1658b was so enormous that it was discovered to be close to three times larger than the size of our sun and was also found to orbit extremely close to its own sun, which has been reported to be a much more evolved star than our own. If a person were able to stand on this exoplanet and gaze at its sun, they would be witnessing a much larger sun than the one we are used to, with this exoplanet’s host star appearing 60 times larger than the one we are used to seeing on Earth.
Other exoplanets of this kind that orbit such evolved suns are not discovered often, and astronomers are currently not certain why this is.
As Chontos explained, “Kepler-1658 is a perfect example of why a better understanding of host stars of exoplanets is so important.”
The new study which has used data from the Kepler Space Telescope to confirm that Kepler-1658b is an exoplanet has been approved to be published in The Astronomical Journal and is currently available in pre-print.