In the field of Sri Lankan politics, national security and the presidential race have been the main talking points of the period, both of which carry a measure of anxiety for many. Almost lost in that buzz was the silent achievement of a team of Sri Lankan scientists in space.
Astronomers from the country discovered two new & # 39; exoplanets & # 39 ;, or planets outside the solar system, a rare study on the study of stars and galaxies that place Sri Lanka in a special league. The effort involved mining through several thousand data files obtained by the NASA Kepler / K2 mission over the past decade. "It's both an effort and an opportunity," said Mahesh Herath, the 28-year-old scientist who led the team.
When the Kepler / K2 spacecraft collects data, it is sent to NASA archives and the data is published online and available in the public domain. "The spacecraft collects so much data that not enough scientists have gone through. Simply put, Kepler has viewed nearly 6,00,000 stars in 10 years, but only a little over 3,000 of them have been found to host at least one exoplanet, "explains Mr. Herath, a research scientist in the Astronomy division. of the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies here.
Highly funded by the government, the Institute conducts research in the areas of modern technologies, including communications, IT, electronics, micro-electronics, space technology, robotics, photonics and new materials.
Going through the rigorous data-mining process that Mr. Herath's team went through, the effort seemed more about effort than opportunity. They first had a computer program to specifically search for something that was a possible exoplanet and then it automatically went through several thousand files. "We did that. If you mine NASA data with your eyes, it would take years to find a concrete one. We worked with 30,000 unique data sets to get here. We started a few hours in April last year, and then our paper was sent out at the end of December. ”
His team's research paper, an end of eight-month effort, was widely accepted. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a peer-reviewed journal published in the UK, and published last month Mr. Herath, along with two other Sri Lankan scientists, and 11 other authors country, wrote about two exoplanets that, they found, were in the "sub-Neptune" category of planets.
"This is a good year for astronomy in Sri Lanka," said Saraj Gunesekera, lead scientist research associate, ACCIMT, part of Mr. Herath's team, along with Colombo University physicist Chandana Jayaratne. In June, Sri Lanka's first satellite 'Ravana-1 & # 39;, designed and built by young engineers Tharindu Dayaratne and Dulani Chamika, was launched into orbit. "And now, this view of exoplanets further compels some of us to be involved in astronomical research," Mr. Gunasekara said. and has since focused on research in the field of astronomy.
What is associated with the sight of exoplanets? Prospects for further research, according to Mr. Herath. "We found that the two [exo] planets were slightly larger than the earth. They could be used for theoretical studies on the formation of early planets," Mr. Herath said, adding that the two planets were more larger than it should be near a star. "We don't know what these particular exoplanets did – they could be something between rocky and slippery – which would be interesting to study." , for the first time a distant planet six times larger than the earth. The Indian Space Research Organization has announced that the discovery places India in the "handful of countries" that have discovered the exoplanets. And now, Sri Lanka is on the wish list as well.
As astronomers around the world multiply by more information obtained from the Kepler / K2 mission, more stars and exoplanets can be seen. Currently, the total number of exoplanets is a little over 4,000. "This is less than 0.5% of the available data," Mr. Herath said. "So, many, many stars have to go through, but not enough people do that."
Meera Srinivasan was the Colombo Colony of Hinduism.