Wednesday, December 7, 2016

New Optical Chip may Help Directly Detect Exoplanets

One of the central reasons exoplanets around distant stars can be so hard to spot directly is because the light of their parent star is so much brighter than the light being reflected by the plant it tends to block them from view. Scientists at Australian National University (ANU) have come up with a new optical chip that can be used with a telescope to help resolve the picture.

Few of the exoplanets discovered over the past two decades have been directly imaged with a telescope. Most have been found using other indirect techniques, such as Doppler spectroscopy, which is a way of analyzing a star's "wobble" caused by the gravitational pull of orbiting planets, or the transit method, where the small drop in brightness as a planet passes, or transits, in front of the star is detected.

ANU Associate Professor Steve Madden likens the new optical chip to working in a similar fashion to noise-canceling headphones, but for light instead of sound.

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