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Posted On: 1 July 2016 01:16 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:16 pm

SPACE IMPACT: Three new exoplanets discovered

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The Qatar Exoplanet Survey (QES) discovered three new extrasolar planets (exoplanets), apart from the other two they have located years back, and it looks like a neon sign for the team, as they are headed to more possible sightings with the odds apparently in their favour.

Not only will they be able to snag a higher rank among the 30 other teams around the globe that use ground-based telescopes to search for planets outside the solar system, these recent advancements may also pave way for them to reach for the stars, both literally and figuratively.

Officially named Qatar 3-B, Qatar 4-B, and Qatar 5-B, these newly-hailed exoplanets are identified using tens of thousands of images collected by QES telescopes in New Mexico (USA), Tenerife (Spain), and Urumqi (China). They are discovered by Greek scientists, who also happen to be Qatari citizens, October last year.

There's a rational explanation why the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) showered support and money for the progress, discovery, and announcement of the recent breakthrough -- the QES team has the correct people and collaborative minds enough to produce something innovative for Qatar to shine even brighter in the field of astronomy.


From left to right: Dr. Dimistris Mislis, Dr. Khalid Al-Subai, Dr. Stylianos Pyrzas, and Mr. Hani Dalee.

As Dr. Stylianos Pyrzas (one of QES' greek astronomers) said in an exclusive interview, Qatar has already proven itself to be a country fully capable of undertaking a huge project such as this. Not only conducting but also producing results. He added also that Qatar is now making a name in the global astronomical community.

True to the team-effort they've put in, QES now ranks 5th out of the 30 teams who invest time to come up with the same aim.

When asked about the intensive series of processes the team has to go through, Dr. Pyrzas initiated with a slight laugh and reveals that 'there really is no easy way to story tell every ups and downs we've had to bring you these results'

But Dr. Dimitris Mislis, the other Greek astronomer present during the June 27 press conference has some tidbits to narrate.


An analysis of the signal breakdown QES receives every minute using ground-based telescopes in four of their stations worldwide.

'The team is measuring the light of the stars every minute since 2010, one year after the idea from Dr. Al Subai sparked. Once we receive a signal, it will take us about 9 months or sometimes more than that to come up with an analysis,' he said.

'The rest is history. All these information we're presenting you right now is just the tip of the iceberg,' continued Mislis.

There is also a story behind why Qatar 3B-5B belongs to the category the scientists call as 'Hot Jupiters.'

Exoplanets are planets orbiting around other stars which are usually 12-17 times the size of the earth. The same case with Qatar 3B-5B, they are collectively known as 'Hot Jupiters' because of the identical attributes they share with planet Jupiter (the largest planet in the solar system). These outer space balls are not only large in size, they are likewise relatively hot (with temperatures ranging between 1200 and 3000 degrees celsius) considering the proximity they have from the host star. If the exoplanets passes between earth and the host star, the light of the star decreases while the planet transits the star, signature of an exoplanet.

Hot Jupiters typically take about 1 to 10 earth days for a full orbit 'as a year,' way shorter than that of Earth's 365 days.

Dr. Mislis, who was jubilant on providing further information mentioned that if there is going to be one striking differentiation between Qatar 3-B to 5-B and the first two exoplanets they have located way back in 2000, it would be the fact that the distance of the latter ones to their host star is extremely close, a phenomena they call as 'tidal locking.'

'One part is always night and the other part is always day. The difference of temperature is a couple of hundred degrees which makes life almost impossible in there', he added.

A nod to Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute's (QEERI) Executive Director Dr. Khalid Al-Subai's opening remark that they are keen on boosting the capabilities to solve the mysteries of the Solar System, Dr. Stylianos Pyrzas has some key points to emphasize.

'Each new planet that we discover is considered an additional piece to a very complicated puzzle. We are gaining knowledge and we are getting one step closer to answering some fundamental questions that still remains open such as how do planets form, how many planets or systems are there and most importantly what are the similarities and differences between our own solar system and theirs. Such discoveries give is a full picture and understanding on how the universe works,' said Pyrzas.

The press conference concluded with a hopeful note from Dr. Al Subai on the possibility of Qatar snatching the third highest rank in the global astronomical scene among teams currently in the hunt for more exoplanets sighting.

ILQ was lucky enough to have the chance to conduct a private interview with Dr. Pyrzas and Dr. Mislis.

When asked about the general impact of the project apart from the scientific one, Dr. Mislis responded with the humble intention of influencing young aspiring scientists.

'We hope that this can attract more people (young Qataris specifically) to venture in the field of astronomy and eventually discover things like this', he said.

Dr. Pyrzas on the other hand shared some pieces of advice to little kids who dream of being astronomers someday.

'You need to work hard. Astronomy involves a lot of hardwork and focus. But most importantly, you just need to love the thing. It should be your passion, and if it is, then you will be good at your job. That's not only for astronomy. That's everywhere. If you like what you do, then you will be successful.'


A quick snap with the QES team after the oress conference in Education City last June 27, 2016.

So are your hopes likewise up? Do you think Team Qatar can make it to the Top 3 by 2017? What about own the top spot and reach for the stars?

Give the astronomers some words of motivation and comment below!