UW-Madison’s astronomy department is out of this world

Two people from UW-Madison have discovered a planet.

A collection of images of deep space, including stars and galaxies.jpg

Two Madisonians helped find a new planet in our solar backyard. | Photo by 608today

Its name is HD 63433d. It orbits HD 63433, a star about 73 light years away from our sun and part of a group of stars moving together that make up the constellation Ursa Major, which includes the Big Dipper.

HD 63433d is a recently discovered planet. A planet closer and younger than any other Earth-sized world yet identified. It was described in a new study published in The Astronomical Journal. Melinda Soares-Furtado and Benjamin Capistrant, co-led and co-wrote the study, both at UW-Madison.

“On a dark night in Madison,” Soares-Furtado says, “you could see [HD 63433] through a good pair of binoculars.” She continued, “This is our solar backyard, and that’s kind of exciting. What sort of information can a star this close, with such a crowded system around it, give away?”

To learn more about deep space, there are local options:

  • MMSD Planetarium, 201 S. Gammon Rd., Madison
    The Madison Metropolitan School District has public events during the school year.
  • Washburn Observatory, 1401 Observatory Dr., Madison
    The public is regularly invited to peer through the telescope.
  • Yerkes Observatory, 373 W. Geneva St., Williams Bay
    Wisconsin’s most famous observatory, Carl Sagan did his graduate work here.

If you’re interested in helping NASA, they’re looking for Gamma Ray Burst Chasers.