One of the most exciting presentations of NAM so far (at least to my mind), has been Super-WASP, which gave us a sneak peak at several new transiting planets. Super-WASP consists of two observatories built with 'off the shelf' CCD cameras that are capable of spotting the tiny dip in light as a planet moves in front of, or transits, its star. They're based one in each hemisphere, and the presentation today was about planets discovered with Super-WASP South, which has been operating since March 2006. What I hadn't realised is that of the 58 known transiting planets, a third of them have been discovered by Super-WASP! The latest ones are all gas giants, all with short orbits around their stars. The longest orbital period observed was just a shade under five days, and this planet (WASP-20) was also the smallest of the latest batch of planets at 0.3 times the mass of Jupiter. Conversely, the most massive, WASP 18, was a whopping 10 times the mass of Jupiter, while another (WASP-17) is quite possibly the most bloated, swollen planet observed so far. Explaining why it is so bloated is still a bit of a mystery, but this is what makes exoplanet research so fascinating.
Image: artist's concept of a planet close to its star, courtesy of ESA/C Carreau.