Telescopes need not be huge to make large discoveries. Astronomers have spotted a new Jupiter-size gas giant orbiting a star 500 light-years away from Earth using telescopes as small as four-inches in diameter.
The Trans-Atlantic Exoplanet Survey (TrES) is comprised of smaller, relatively inexpensive telescopes located around the world. TrES uses the so-called transit technique, which looks for shadows caused by a planet passing between its star and Earth, to scan the skies for signs of faraway worlds. In a paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the team dubbed the first planet found TrES-1. ¿The TrES survey gave us our initial lineup of suspects,¿ explains Alessandro Sozzetti of the University of Pittsburgh and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). ¿Then we made follow-up observations to eliminate the imposters.¿ Out of 12,000 stars, the scientists narrowed the list to 16 in April of this year.
Subsequent observations with the 10-meter-diameter Keck telescopes in Hawaii-- behemoths compared to the ones that make up TrES--confirmed that TrES-1 is orbiting a star in the constellation Lyra. It circles its star every 3.03 days at a distance of just four million miles, which would suggest that temperatures on TrES1 could reach a staggering 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Notes study co-author Guillermo Torres of CfA, ¿This discovery demonstrates that even humble telescopes can make huge contributions to planet searches.¿