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    Default Observing Stars That Host Exoplanets



    The moon is currently casting its torchlight upon us, and as any DSO hunter knows, it can severely hamper our efforts. One then has the choice of braving its piercing light to see what they can, observe the moon, chase double stars, look at available planets, any combination of these, or simply choose to stay inside. That situation got me to thinking about trying to find a more specialized observing project to share with you; one that is fairly straight forward and simple in scope, and can be done moon or no moon. To that end I came up with the thought of giving you a list of stars that have their own planets – exoplanets.

    Not that you will see anything unique or special about these stars visually, other than their aesthetic beauty through the eyepiece. But rather it is about the mind pausing to consider that the light you are seeing has also fallen upon a distant world orbiting that star. It causes us to speculate as to what the environment might be like on those planets, and whether there is any possibility of life forms on some of them. Of course, in some cases, the planets are very inhospitable based on our understanding of life, so it can be difficult to fathom that any form of life might exist on some of them. But still, just as we do every time we are under the stars taking in the universe as a whole, we wonder.

    So I invite you to spend part of an evening tracking down as many of these stars as you can. Some may be a bit too far south or north for you, depending on where you live, but I believe I have given you plenty of available targets to seek out. The first part has nine total stars that most everyone should be able to see, unless you live in the extreme north or south. I have also included at the end three additional ones from a bit further south. Each group is sorted by increasing right ascension to provide some organization. So without further delay, here are a few brighter stars that you should find fairly easy to locate.


    6 Lyncis in Lynx: The somewhat dim constellation representing the lynx is also home to a star hosting an exoplanet. At magnitude 5.86, this spectral class K0IV sub-giant, lies about 185.58 light years distant from us. In 2008 a single planet was discovered, having a minimum of 2.4 Jupiter masses it orbits approximately 2.2 A.U. out from the host star. To locate this star you can use chart 23 in the PSA, though you will not find the star labeled. Look for the star 5 Lyncis southeast of 2 Lyncis near the Camelopardalis border. Follow that same line on to the southeast to the next star after 5 Lyncis and that will be your target – 6 Lyncis. I circled it in my PSA. If you have Interstellarum to chart 13. You will find 6 Lyncis is plotted and labeled with both its Flamsteed number and an ellipse indicating its exoplanet status.

    Mu Leonis in Leo: Also known as Rasalas, this star is at the apex of the prominent sickle asterism that forms the lion’s majestic head. An easy naked eye star of magnitude 3.88 (spectral class K2III), most shouldn’t need to consult a chart to locate it in the sky. However, if one is required check PSA chart 35 or Interstellarum 34 or 35. It lies about 124.10 light years away and in 2014 it was found to have a planet of about 2.4 Jupiter masses, orbiting at approximately 1.1 A.U.

    47 Ursae Majoris in Ursa Major: Located near the hind legs of the great bear, this magnitude 5.03 this yellow dwarf (spectral class G0V) is nearby to us at only about 45.56 light years away. Like our sun it lies on the main sequence and is happily converting hydrogen to helium in its core. This star sports 3 known planets: b discovered in 1996, c in 2001 and d in 2010. Uma 47 b has about 2.53 Jupiter masses and orbits at an average distance of about 2.10 A.U.; UMa 47c is about 0.54 Jupiter masses with an average orbital distance of about 3.60 A.U.; Uma d has a mass of about 1.64 Jupiters with an average orbit of around 11.6 A.U. You can find this star plotted in the PSA on chart 33 and Interstellarum on chart 22.

    Chi Virginis in Virgo: Look for this orange giant (spectral class K2III) about 4° north of the galaxy M104 in southern Virgo. Shining at magnitude 4.66, it lies about 293.54 light years distant. In 2009 it was found to have a very large planet of around 11.09 Jupiter masses with an average orbital distance around 2.14 A.U. If you use the PSA it can be found plotted on chart 47 and in Interstellarum on charts 57 and 69.

    70 Virginis in Virgo: This magnitude 4.97 yellow dwarf star (spectral class G2.5Va) can be found in the far northeastern corner of the celestial virgin, near the border with Coma Berenices and Bootes. It lies approximately 71.75 light years away, and in 1996 it was found to have one planet of about 6.6 Jupiter masses at an average orbital distance of only about 0.48 A.U.. There is also a dust disk in orbit at a distance of approximately 3.4 A.U. You can find it plotted in the Pocket Sky Atlas (PSA) on chart 44, and Interstellarum on chart 45. Notice that in Interstellarum, it is shown with an ellipse around it.

    Tau Bootis in Bootes: Not far from our first target, we find this binary system, consisting of a magnitude 4.50 yellow-white dwarf (spectral class F7V) primary and its dim red dwarf secondary (spectral class M2V). Relatively nearby at around 50.88 light years, a planet was discovered orbiting the primary star in 1996. At about 4.13 Jupiter masses, it orbits tightly around the primary about every 3 days at an average distance of about 0.046 A.U. A second more distant planet is suspected though not yet confirmed. To locate this star use the same charts used for 70 Virginis.

    Kappa Coronae Borealis in Corona Borealis: This constellation is home to the striking crown asterism, many dim galaxies and our next two targets. At a distance of about 101.43 light years, this star shines at magnitude 4.79 visually. A K-type supergiant of spectral class K1IVa, it was found to have one planet, discovered in 2007. Not significantly larger than Jupiter, it is about 1.6 times as massive. However, its orbital relationship is nothing like Jupiter’s is to our sun. This planet orbits its host star only about half as far away as Jupiter on average, at a mere 2.6 A.U. To locate this interesting system, utilize PSA chart 53 or Interstellarum 32. It forms a triangle with the two end stars of the crown, Iota and Theta.

    Epsilon Coronae Borealis in Corona Borealis: Epsilon is a multiple star system that shines at a respectable combined magnitude of 4.13 at a distance of approximately 221.46 light years. The primary is a giant of spectral class K2III, whose companion is a 13th magnitude KIII dwarf at about 2 arc seconds separation. A third star once thought to be a component is now considered a line of sight companion. It is the primary however that has been found to have an exoplanet in its grasp. Discovered in 2012, it has a mass of about 6.7 Jupiter masses, and orbits around 1.3 A.U. away from its host star. The northern crown is a familiar asterism for most, but if you need to, use the same charts as with our previous target.

    14 Herculis in Hercules: Now we move into the celestial strongman, looking at PSA chart 53 and Interstellarum chart 19 (north of Corona Borealis). Find 4th magnitude Phi Herculis then head south-southeast for a little over 3° to sweep up this magnitude 6.67 star, home to 1 known and 1 proposed planet. A spectral class K0V orange main sequence star, 14 Her b was found in 1998 having a mass of about 4.64 Jupiter masses and orbiting at around 2.77 A.U. In 2005 a second planet of 2.1 Jupiter masses was suspected at an average distance of approximately 6.9 A.U.


    For our more southern colleagues, I include an additional three targets that they should find interesting. If you live far enough south in the northern hemisphere, you may just be able to pick off one or two of these as well.


    Beta Pictoris in Pictor:
    This bright magnitude 3.86 star can be found on a little over 1° west-northwest of brilliant Canopus. It lies about 62.95 light years distant and is a bluish-white spectral class A6V star. In 2008 it was found to be hosting a planet of 7.0 Jupiter masses that is orbiting at an average distance of around 9.04 A.U. If you need a chart to locate this star, try using 18 in the PSA or 96 in Interstellarum.

    Alpha Centauri-B in Centaurus: Brilliant Alpha Centauri is a beautiful star, especially when seen in tandem with Beta and the constellation Crux to their west. As a northerner, I was mesmerized by this sight several times while observing from Mexico. Anyway, Alpha-B at magnitude 1.33 sits next to dazzling Alpha-A, which shines at -0.01. In 2012, the B component of this system was found to be hosting a small planet orbiting in a very tight orbit closer than Mercury is to our own sun. At a mass of only 0.0036 that of Jupiter, it has a tight average orbit of about 0.04 A.U. (Mercury’s average is .387 A.U.). Anyone who has this delightful system in their sky should need a chart to locate it. But in case you do, try the PSA chart 48 or 50, or Interstellarum 103.

    Nu-2 Lupi in Lupus: The celestial wolf lies north of our last target and is home to some very interesting DSOs. The magnitude 5.78 star Nu-2 Lupi is a main sequence G-type star of spectral class G2V. It lies at a distance of about 48.30 light years and is host to 3 planets all orbiting very tightly. These 3 low mass planets were discovered in 2011. Nu-2 Lupi b comes in at 5.28 Earth masses at an average orbital distance of 0.0933 A.U.; Nu-2 Lupi c is of 11.38 Earth masses and circles the star at an average of 0.1665 A.U.; and finally Nu-2 Lupi d is a 9.59 Earth mass planet with an average orbit of 0.4111 Earth masses. Sounds like a busy place! Anyway, to locate this strange system, use PSA chart 59 or Interstellarum chart 92. Look south of 3rd magnitude Epsilon and just southeast of 4th magnitude Mu.


    There you go. I hope you had some fun chasing down these unique stars. Hopefully some of you may become interested in hunting down still more of these distant planetary hosts. If so, I can recommend the below linked website as an excellent source for data. It was my main source for the project, as well as using Wikipedia.com for some supplementary information. Until next time, happy viewing!

    The Extrasolar Planet Encyclopaedia — Catalog Listing
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    Default Re: Observing Stars That Host Exoplanets

    That would be an insteresting project of stargazing and for those who are in a registered astronomy organization here is the link to name those exoworlds....Name the Exoworlds - Sky & Telescope

    It is the perfect complement to the "Observing Stars That Host Exoplanets" proyect you proposed, isn't it?
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    Default Re: Observing Stars That Host Exoplanets

    Very nice Alan! Thank you for providing this list, and what a wonderful observing program to partake in. A very fun and contemplative array of targets. I shall add these to my observing list, a perfect opportunity to enjoy the night sky under the Moon's bright embrace. Thanks again Alan!
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    Default Re: Observing Stars That Host Exoplanets

    Awesome, great idea Alan. This sort of reminds me of Uncle Rod’s blog post about hunting down star systems mentioned in Star Trek. As much as I like science fiction, reality is far more interesting.

    Early in exoplanet hunting, the supermassive gas giants were the first to be discovered. As techniques improved, it evolved to finding Jupiter-sized planets and later rocky “super Earths”. Over the last few years, the size of planets discovered are approaching Earth size and even the compositions are being analyzed. Truly fascinating!

    So to that end, did you come across any observable stars with exoplanets that are closer to Earth size?
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    Default Re: Observing Stars That Host Exoplanets

    Thanks for a great idea Alan.

    In Stellerium you can also load the "exoplanet" plug in.
    They also direct you to this very useful website.

    LINK: http://www.google.co.za/url?sa=t&rct...Fe2TxPcW_eAtCA

    These should assist in your hunting and knowledge of these exoplanets.

    Cheers
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    Default Re: Observing Stars That Host Exoplanets

    Thank you Alan, great write up
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    Default Re: Observing Stars That Host Exoplanets

    Thanks for posting another very interesting observing project!
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    Default Re: Observing Stars That Host Exoplanets

    Quote Originally Posted by kingclinton View Post
    Thanks for a great idea Alan.

    In Stellerium you can also load the "exoplanet" plug in.
    They also direct you to this very useful website.

    LINK: http://www.google.co.za/url?sa=t&rct...Fe2TxPcW_eAtCA

    These should assist in your hunting and knowledge of these exoplanets.

    Cheers
    Thanks for the Stellarium tip Clinton. I rarely use it any more, but I know many that do, and it is indeed an excellent tool. The link they direct you to is indeed a good site. In my original post I linked to that one as well, but to the searchable catalog page of the site. I agree it is an awesome site for researching data for exoplanets.

    I hope that everyone will utilize the sources of their choice to seek out more of these interesting objects. They do make a nice diversion for times when conditions may not permit chasing more challenging targets.
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    Default Re: Observing Stars That Host Exoplanets

    Alan, this is really a great (and fun) idea! Thanks for coming up with this challenge. I am going to look for these the next time the skies clear!
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    Default Re: Observing Stars That Host Exoplanets

    Quote Originally Posted by musiclucho View Post
    That would be an insteresting project of stargazing and for those who are in a registered astronomy organization here is the link to name those exoworlds....Name the Exoworlds - Sky & Telescope

    It is the perfect complement to the "Observing Stars That Host Exoplanets" proyect you proposed, isn't it?
    Thanks for the link Luis, hopefully someone will be able to take advantage of the program. The link also gives a table of additional stars. For my project I wanted to list stars that should be available at the present time, but as one can see there are plenty of targets the year round.
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