A recent paper announcing 16 new candidates from Kepler data by Princeton astronomers Xu Huang, Gaspar Bakos and Joel Hartman has got some attention on Talk, as one of the candidates they report is the one we identified back during our mad rush through Stargazing Live. While that’s been clearly identified on talk for a while, we didn’t rush to write a paper on it, and a few people have asked why not given that the glory of first in print has now gone to the Princeton team.
The main reason is that for this candidate in particular, we wanted to wait until we could get plenty of follow-up data. Tom Barclay, in the last post on the blog talked through the various scenarios that lead to false positives, even when the transits themselves are real, and the only way to be sure you’re looking at a real planet is to go observing. We’ve been doing that for a selection of Planet Hunters candidates, including this one, and hope to report good news soon. In the meantime, for this candidate, we chose not to write up a separate paper until we had better evidence – there’s some circumstantial evidence that there might be some interference from a background source and we wanted to be careful. (We weren’t helped by the fact that the Kepler field is best seen in the summer…)
In such a new field as planet hunting, it’s not at all clear what we should make public early and what we should hang on to. This was one call it seems we got wrong, but we’re still looking forward to analysing our observations and seeing what’s really going on with this star. One thing we know we can do better is be faster to find interesting candidates, and if you want to help us with that you could do a lot worse than head over to a new part of the site where we’ve asking your help to review our best candidates.