Manama: A Qatar-led team of explorers said that it discovered two planets, but will make the official announcement in September, a local daily said.

According to Khalid Al Subai, the founder of the Qatar Exoplanet Survey (QES), the programme that discovered the ‘Qatar 1b' planet last year, has found two new planets to be named ‘Qatar 2b' and ‘Qatar 2c.'

The programme is an extrasolar planets searching project that employs the transit method, with a team made up of experts from universities, including Harvard, St Andrew's, Leicester, Keele and other institutions, Gulf Times reported on Wednesday.

"We already have one discovery which we announced at the end of 2010," he said. "The good news is that we will have another one, which should be announced mid-September."

The planets are unrelated to last year's discovery and connected to totally different stars, he said.

Official announcement 

Al Subai, who is also director of research co-ordination and compliance at Qatar Foundation's research division, said that the official announcement about the discoveries would be made later this year.

"When we found one planet, we discovered that it was not obeying normal rules - there was a delay and shift in the orbit that told us there was a second body there," he said, therefore we needed more time to follow up," he said, quoted by the daily.

Further exploration is needed to determine whether there are other similar planets in this new system, but Al Subai said that the QES team did not wish to wait before making the announcement.

The multi-million dollar project, based in New Mexico, will be expanded in the future with attempts to determine whether life is supported on the planets that have been discovered, he said.

If the team can determine what elements are present on the planet, such as methane and oxygen, then they can move closer to establishing whether life could be supported.

Arab science and technology

According to Al Subai, "this kind of advancement is contributing towards a renaissance in Arab science and technology, harking back to previous achievements."

"If you look at any astronomy catalogue, many of the bright star's names are Arabic, but unfortunately many people do not know it," he said. "Now it is our turn to come back and put Arabic names again in the sky."

However, Al Subai said that not everyone was "as enthusiastic" about the QES naming programme. "The team faced opposition before getting the International Astronomical Union to approve the ‘Qatar 1b' name."