and then there were fourteen…
In June 2002, I saw Keith Horne give a review talk at the Scientific Frontiers in Research on Extrasolar Planets Meeting at the Carnegie Institute of Washington. He showed a slide (an updated version of which is here) that listed 23 planetary transit surveys that were in operation at that time. He had asked the investigators running each survey to send him the number of new transiting planets per month that could be expected to turn up. The grand total rang up to a whopping 191 fresh planets per month, or 2,292 planets per year.
For a number of reasons, those numbers haven’t quite panned out, but it nevertheless finally looks like we’re entering a phase where the planetary yield from wide-field transit surveys is starting to ramp up dramatically. Today’s astro-ph mailing has a paper by Collier Cameron et al. entitled “WASP-1b and WASP-2b: Two new transiting exoplanets detected with SuperWASP and SOPHIE”, describing the discovery of P=2.15 d and P=2.52 d planets transiting ~12th magnitude stars. As of this month, astronomers have been hauling in transits at a rate of one per week.
Dave Charbonneau at CfA dropped me an e-mail this morning:
Great chance to catch WASP-1 tonight from the western US. We will pursue it from Mt. Hopkins and Palomar, but thought you might want to give a heads up to transitsearch.org. This one is very much in need of a great light curve, as the current estimates of the planetary radius range from “smallish” to “huge”, with an error bar that is depressingly large.
He’s definitely right about all that. Multiple photometric data sets will be of considerable use in constraining the system parameters. It’s also going to be very important to get a better handle on the properties (Mass, Radius, and metallicity) of the WASP-1b and 2b parent stars. We’d really like to know how these two new planets fit into the overall trends that are starting to emerge among the aggregate of transiting planets.
Ephemerides for both of the WASPs have been added to the transitsearch.org candidates table, and the (rather meagre) published tables of radial velocity measurements have been added to the Systemic back-end. Given the short orbital periods, I don’t think it’ll be very long at all before small telescope observers start producing confirmation light curves.