Over 135 planets have now been discovered by studying their effects on the star they orbit, which produce a pronounced wobble. But so far, only a few have been found by using the transit method, detecting the periodic dimming of a star as a planet passes between it and the Earth. Now a planet called TrES-1 has been located by the Trans-Atlantic Exoplanet Survey (TrES), which uses small, inexpensive telescopes to find planets around bright stars. You can read about the TrES discovery through this press release from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.
Obviously, finding planets through the transit method means locating those stars whose orbital plane is lined up properly for the Earth-bound observer to see the crossing (and you have to be careful to eliminate eclipsing binaries). But rare as these may be, the beauty of discovering such planets is that we can now make some direct observations of planetary atmospheres, and we’ll get a good reading on the mass and size of any planets so observed. The team discovering TrES-1 included scientists from the Astrophysical Institute of the Canaries, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Lowell Observatory, and the California Institute of Technology. The team was led by NCAR’s Timothy Brown, who built the optical system for the project at Tenerife in the Canaries. The actual discovery was the work of graduate student Roi Alonso Sobrino. Nice work!