Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Astronomers Devise New Technique to Image Binary System Exoplanets

Image Credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2 Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin
 Astronomers from NASA's Ames Research Center have come up with a new technique to photograph exoplanets in systems with more than one star. This technique could capture images of Earth-sized planets in systems such as nearby Alpha Centauri starting in the 2020s.
 To capture images of exoplanets, astronomers usually employ an instrument known as a coronagraph, who blocks out its target star's glaring light, letting them see faint pricks of light reflected off of orbiting planets. However, the problem with multi-star systems is that the light from a star's companion can drown out the light of an orbiting planet.
 To combat this problem, Ruslan Belikov and his colleagues at Ames have developed a new method known as multi-star wavefront control.  This technique relies on deformable mirrors within a telescope which are capable of altering the shape of their surfaces to correct for imperfection within the optical components of the telescope and remove light from more than one star.
 Previous works found that two-thirds of class G yellow dwarf stars (the group that includes our own sun) are systems with two or more stars orbiting each other. Since these multiple systems are so common, this makes this new technique very helpful in the hunt for alien planets.

Read more about this fascinating story at: https://www.space.com/39289-alpha-centauri-planet-spotting-technique.html

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