Why this exoplanet’s discovery using radio waves matters so much?

Why this exoplanet’s discovery using radio waves matters so much?


By: Tech Desk |

Published: August 6, 2020 7:55:56 pm





An illustration of exoplanet’s orbit around a wobbly star (Source: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Astronomers around the world have been in the hunt for planets, stars, and galaxies which are light years away from us, searching for a sign of life. However, in a first, scientists have been able to discover an exoplanet and a wobbly Star using just radio waves. In this method, scientists detect an exoplanet via auroras formed on it by the interaction of the star and a strong magnetic field around a planetary body. This technique was revealed earlier this year when scientists were searching for exoplanets orbiting around dwarf stars which can have signs of life on it.

“Our method complements the radial velocity method, which is more sensitive to planets orbiting in close orbits, while ours is more sensitive to massive planets in orbits further away from the star,” said astrophysicist Gisela Ortiz-Leon of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany.

“Indeed, these other techniques have found only a few planets with characteristics such as planet mass, orbital size, and host star mass, similar to the planet we found. We believe that the VLBA, and the astrometry technique in general, could reveal many more similar planets.”

The mass of the newly discovered planet is similar to that of Saturn’s. The dwarf star that it orbits is not a large one. The exoplanet is located about 35 light-years away.

How was it detected?

A unique approach was taken by the scientists in this discovery as they were able to track the ‘snake wiggle’ of a movement of the cool dwarf star through the Milky Way with the help of a radio telescope.

What are exoplanets?

An exoplanet is a planet that orbits a star outside the solar system. These exoplanets are hard to detect because they are hidden by the bright glare of the stars they orbit around. One of the key features of the exoplanet is that its orbit is wobbly because the gravitational of the star is not at its centre which makes the phenomenon possible.

So far, over 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered by astronomers. But, the recent discovery may answer several questions as the previous ones were too difficult to detect.

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