U of L student discovers a planet - WDRB 41 Louisville News

U of L student discovers a planet

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Louisville, KY (WDRB) A University of Louisville doctoral student, Karen Collins, has made quite the find.  She helped discover a new planet.

Collins leads a scientific team that has discovered a hot Saturn-like planet in another solar system 700 light-years away. Collins says, "We really don't know the structure of this planet, whether it's gas, whether it's rocky or water."

The discovery was made using inexpensive ground-based telescopes.  Collins says, "So one of those hints turned out to be this very interesting find, a plant that we called KELT-6b. The important thing, that planet is a transient planet. We're able to gather the most information about that planet because it transits."

Collins, is an electrical engineer whose longtime fascination with astronomy led her to this second career. Her work is supported by NASA.

She says, "The planet turns out to be a gas giant planet. It's very similar to Saturn in our solar system except it orbits its star every eight days, so its year is just a week long." KELT-6b's trip across the face of its star, as seen from Earth, lasts only five hours.

For students attending this science camp at the Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium that just reopened, this is exciting.  Drew Marcum, an 8th grade student from Barret Traditional Middle School says, "Now we're getting into like finding other stars and stuff, which is mind blowing because there could be life and other things out there because it depends on how far the earth or other planets are away from the sun."

For those students, the lesson is that one day they, too, could discover a planet.

Sri Bhamidipati, a Meyzeek Middle School student, says, "I wanted to go to this camp, but I'm interested in space and all this stuff and if I had to choose a career it would be medical or this kind of thing."

Collins says, "Currently looking at our technology, we're looking at many hundreds of thousands of years to even possibly be able to get there right now. It's beyond our ability to get to this particular solar system."

The Planetarium spent $215,000 to renovate its projection system. People can now watch the shows on a 360-degree screen under the planetarium's 55-foot dome.

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