Time flies in new exoplanet video exploring beyond the boundaries of our solar system

May 07, 2014

(Phys.org) —Under normal circumstances most people who dream of staring into space would need to purchase a telescope and a copy of 'Astronomy for Dummies' to make sense of it all.

PhD student Tom Hands from the University of Leicester's Theoretical Astrophysics group in the Department of Physics and Astronomy has made visualising the great beyond a much more manageable process for intrepid space explorers thanks to a novel video that takes viewers on a journey through all the planetary systems we've found so far that orbit a single star.

Using the collected data in the Open Exoplanet Catalogue - which contains information on 1774 different exoplanets in 1081 star systems - Hands produced the video as part of his PhD research.

Exoplanets are planets that exist outside of our solar system and by observing them in the video we are given an insight into just how vast the universe is and how notions of time would differ in other solar systems based on their unique orbits.

Tom said: "I wanted to demonstrate the vast range of different time-scales on which exoplanets orbit their host stars, from things which orbit at many times the separation of the Earth and Sun over many hundreds of years, right down to planets which orbit so close to their star that they complete each orbit in just a few hours.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

"I hope to further our understanding of how such systems form through my research. I find it fascinating just how much these exoplanetary systems differ from our own system in scale. I hope people will gain an understanding of the vast differences between systems from the video."

Tom's research, which is funded by the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC), in particular concentrates on a very specific subset of exoplanetary systems in which 5 or 6 planets are crammed in very close to their stars, each taking just a few days to complete one orbit.

Dr Richard Alexander from the University of Leicester's Department of Physics and Astronomy, who supervises Tom's PhD, said: "Tom's research looks into how planetary systems are assembled, by building computer simulations of their formation and evolution. The video shows the scale of the challenge, but also highlights how far we've come. Most of these planets have only been found in the last few years, and Tom is using these new discoveries as tests for his simulations.

"For now we are focusing on one particular type of , but our long-term goal is to understand how nature produces the enormously diverse range of exoplanet systems shown in the video. Tom's research will continue to make progress towards this goal."

The builds upon research documented in Tom's ExoVis visualisation, which was the winning entry for the Open Exoplanet Catalogue 2013 visualisation contest.

No longer isolated to the world of science fiction, we are now capable of exploring and star systems in greater detail than ever before thanks to the effort of dedicated astronomers and great feats of engineering such as the Kepler Space Telescope. Over time, as technology continues to flourish, more exoplanets will undoubtedly become clearer to us as we gaze out further into the cosmic ether.

Explore further: Hubble's ultraviolet telescope has revealed more about the stars than we could ever see

Related Stories

Kepler marks five years in space

Mar 07, 2014

(Phys.org) —Five years ago today, on March 6, 2009, NASA's Kepler Space Telescope rocketed into the night skies above Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to find planets around other stars, called ...

Four new exoplanets to start off the new year!

Jan 06, 2012

It’s only a few days into 2012 and already some new exoplanet discoveries have been announced. As 2011 ended, there were a total of 716 confirmed exoplanets and 2,326 planetary candidates, found by both ...

Explainer: How astronomers find exoplanets

Mar 13, 2014

Astronomers didn't know, 20 years ago, whether planets existed around any stars other than the Sun. All that changed in 1995 with the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting the star 51 Pegasi. And by the beginning of 2014, ...

Astronomers see misaligned planets in distant system

Oct 17, 2013

Using data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, an international team of astronomers has discovered a distant planetary system featuring multiple planets orbiting at a severe tilt to their host star.

Recommended for you

The riddle of galactic thin–thick disk solved

Apr 24, 2015

A long-standing puzzle regarding the nature of disk galaxies has finally been solved by a team of astronomers led by Ivan Minchev from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP), using state-of-the-art ...

Giant cosmic tsunami wakes up comatose galaxies

Apr 24, 2015

Galaxies are often found in clusters, with many 'red and dead' neighbours that stopped forming stars in the distant past. Now an international team of astronomers, led by Andra Stroe of Leiden Observatory ...

Astronomers find runaway galaxies

Apr 23, 2015

We know of about two dozen runaway stars, and have even found one runaway star cluster escaping its galaxy forever. Now, astronomers have spotted 11 runaway galaxies that have been flung out of their homes ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.