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Thu 16 Dec 2010 01:05 PM

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Qatar-led team discovers new planet

Gulf state's wide-angle cameras help in search for ‘Qatar-1b’

Qatar-led team discovers new planet
Qatar-1b is a gas giant 20 percent larger than Jupiter. It orbits a star 500 light years away (for illustrative puposes only - ITP images)

A Qatar-led astronomy team has discovered its first planet, which has been named after the Gulf state.

Qatar-1b is a gas giant 20 percent larger than Jupiter, according to AFP. It orbits a star 500 light years away.

The team – which also included astronomers from the US and UK - used data from Qatar’s wide-angle cameras in the US state of New Mexico to locate the planet from the dip on light from the parent star as its orbit took it between the star and Earth.

"The discovery of Qatar-1b is a great achievement - one that further demonstrates Qatar’s commitment to becoming a leader in innovative science and research," said Dr Khalid Al Subai, leader of the Qatar exoplanet survey and a research director at the foundation.

"Qatar is proud to contribute to the search for planets around other stars."

Qatar-1b is extremely close to its parent star, orbiting it every 1.4 days. The temperature on the planet is 1,100 degrees Celsius.

A professor at St Andrews University in Scotland said that the team was hoping to find more planets using the same method.

"Qatar-1b is just the beginning," said Professor Keith Horne, according to AFP.

"With Qatar's new planet-hunting cameras, we should soon be finding smaller planets as well, hot Saturns and hot Neptunes, and ultimately, with a different technique, cool Earths."


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