How to hunt for exoplanets

Mar 02, 2010

A new report launched by the Institute of Physics (IOP) Exoplanets - The search for planets beyond our solar system explains how new technological advances have seen the discovery of more than 400 exoplanets to date, a number expected to rise to thousands in the next few years.

The report details how new techniques and instruments are providing growing observational evidence that our home galaxy - the Milky Way with its 100 billion - could contain millions of solar systems.

Discovering a distant should be almost impossible but astronomers have used their understanding of physics, combined with sophisticated instrumentation and data analysis, to detect signals indicating the presence of a planet.

The first exoplanets were discovered in 1991 using radial velocity measurements, the detecting and measuring of the that expolanets exert on their parent stars, which causes the stars to wobble.

Other detection methods include transit observation (measuring the dimming of a star's brightness as a planet passes in front of it) or nulling interferometry (where received by several telescopes are combined to give a proportionately higher-resolution image).

Today, direct detection of the visible and infrared light from in wide orbits is becoming increasingly possible.

In particular, UK researchers have been heavily involved in a new adaptive optics system, the Gemini Plant Imager, which will enable vastly more sensitive searches for fainter planets in closer orbits - and take us one step closer to discovering a second Earth.

Dr Robert Kirby-Harris, chief executive at IOP, said: "This report outlines exciting developments in detecting planets which might - just might - be able to support life in distant solar systems. It provides yet another illustration of how the techniques and knowledge provided by physics which help us to further our understanding of the universe."

Explore further: Young binary star system may form planets with weird and wild orbits

More information: You can find a fully copy of the report at www.iop.org/activity/policy/Pu… tions/file_40587.pdf

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Astronomers spot 'super-Earth' 80 light years away

Jan 08, 2010

US astronomers have detected the second smallest exoplanet ever discovered with a mass just four times heavier than the Earth, adding to a growing number of low-mass planets dubbed "super-Earths."

Increasing the odds of the sweep

Oct 04, 2006

Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have confirmed the extrasolar planet status of two of the 16 candidates discovered by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. One of the two confirmed exoplanets has ...

Refining the search for new planets

Feb 03, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- SF State's planet hunting team is trying new avenues of investigation in the quest to discover planets beyond our solar system. At the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in January, ...

Planet-Hunting Method Succeeds at Last

May 28, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A long-proposed tool for hunting planets has netted its first catch -- a Jupiter-like planet orbiting one of the smallest stars known.

Is The Solar System Unique in The Universe?

Aug 03, 2004

On the evidence to date, our solar system could be fundamentally different from the majority of planetary systems around stars because it formed in a different way. If that is the case, Earth-like planets will be very rar ...

Recommended for you

Evidence of a local hot bubble carved by a supernova

14 hours ago

I spent this past weekend backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park, where although the snow-swept peaks and the dangerously close wildlife were staggering, the night sky stood in triumph. Without a fire, ...

Astronomers measure weight of galaxies, expansion of universe

22 hours ago

Astronomers at the University of British Columbia have collaborated with international researchers to calculate the precise mass of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies, dispelling the notion that the two galaxies have similar ...

Mysterious molecules in space

Jul 29, 2014

Over the vast, empty reaches of interstellar space, countless small molecules tumble quietly though the cold vacuum. Forged in the fusion furnaces of ancient stars and ejected into space when those stars ...

Comet Jacques makes a 'questionable' appearance

Jul 28, 2014

What an awesome photo! Italian amateur astronomer Rolando Ligustri nailed it earlier today using a remote telescope in New Mexico and wide-field 4-inch (106 mm) refractor. Currently the brightest comet in ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Nik_2213
not rated yet Mar 03, 2010
I remember Peter Van der Kamp's epic struggle to detect near-by exoplanets by 'traditional' photographic Astrometry. His efforts, IIRC, were confounded by a decades-old repair to telescope introducing a tiny, tiny skew that was taken as 'wobble'. Now, there are several different methods, together finding a veritable zoo...