Astronomy dabbler discovers four new planets

Last Updated: Tue, Jan 04, 2011 08:00 hrs

London, Jan 4 (IANS) An amateur astronomer is over the moon after discovering four new planets in his spare time at home.

Peter Jalowiczor, 45, has never owned a telescope but still managed to provide scientists with enough information to establish the existence of four gaseous orbs outside the solar system.

The gas worker from Rotherham in Britain's South Yorkshire has been officially named by the University of California's Lick-Carnegie Planet Search Team in the US as the co-discoverer of planets HD31253b, HD218566b, HD177830c and HD99492c, the Astrophysical Journal reported.

An overwhelmed Jalowiczor said: 'I've always been interested in astronomy and I have two science degrees, but to be one of the officially recognised finders of these planets is just...I get lost for words.'

Using just two home computers, he spent night after night analysing thousands of space measurements released by astronomers at the Santa Cruz-based university in 2005, according to the Daily Mail.

Experts hoped that making the data, which had been collected over decades, public would invite the possibility of amateur astronomers making findings of their own.

That's exactly what happened after Jalowiczor used up hundreds of hours of his spare time from March 2007 onwards analysing the data, working the figures and creating graphs.

Using a process called doppler spectroscopy, he pinpointed the existence of exoplanets - planets outside our solar system that are too far away to be seen on even the most powerful telescope.

The astronomer said: 'I look for faint changes in stars' behaviours that can only be caused by a planet or planets orbiting about them. Once I identify likely candidates, I send the details back to Santa Cruz.'

'Stars are incredibly far away and no telescope yet built can directly see their discs, let alone any planets going around them,' he added.

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