This is how Mexican astronomers discovered a giant exoplanet

The TVLM513b exoplanet orbits an ultra-cool red dwarf star

This is how Mexican astronomers discovered a giant exoplanet
Illustration shows how the star's motion around the center of mass between it and the planet causes a "wobble" in its motion through space - Photo: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF
English 08/08/2020 12:54 Mariana Lebrija Clavel Mexico City Actualizada 12:54
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Salvador Curiel Ramírez, a radio astronomer from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), is responsible for the discovery of the TVLM513b extrasolar plant with the help of radio waves. In an interview with EL UNIVERSAL, the expert talked about the process that led to this discovery, which could lead to new ones.

The member of the UNAM’s Astronomy Institute said that this research began five years ago in accordance with the Gaia Project works, which is a satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA) that has been gravitating in space while making optical observations in order to find planets.

“I wanted to participate so I kept thinking how to apply this technique (that of observing planets). Radio waves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, that is comprised of optical light (the one humans are able to see), infrared light, X rays, and ultraviolet rays.

That was how Curiel Ramírez and his research team detected the TVLM513b extrasolar planet 35 light-years from Earth, with a mass similar to Saturn’s, with the radio waves method.

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The process
Salvador Curiel Ramírez explained that this astronomy breakthrough required a telescope designed to receive this kind of wave. This equipment is equivalent to optical telescopes with the difference that they perceive much larger wavelengths: “These telescopes are usually very large; they can measure 25, 50, or 100 meters, that is, they are giant,” he added.

The tool used by Mexican scientists consists of 10 antennas distributed throughout the U.S. territory, including Hawaii and the Virgin Islands: “The fact the antennas are separated from each other allows us to see very small structures; that is something required for this kind of study” and asserted that this allowed them to know more details about the phenomenon.

The star formation and radio astronomy scholar asserted that this discovery “is completely unprecedented,” since this kind of star, as well as its planet system, is very different from everything else that had been found so far, for, in this case, they identified the planet through the movement of its star, which rotates due to the planet’s gravitational force.

“We need to measure this movement during a rotation period to determine which is the orbit movement of the planet around the star,” he added and said this is an indirect technique: “We are not watching the planet but its star; by using the movements we see in the star, we know the planet’s orbit parameters, that determined its mass, and its rotation period.”

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This object was observed during a year and a half before UNAM astronomers were able to publish the article in which they develop their discovery. He also mentioned that, currently, they are observing over 10 potential sources, ”as a matter of fact, we are already working in another source where we have found two planets,” he asserted. This investigation will follow the same technological guidelines that were used to detect TVLM513b.

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