New tool refines exoplanet search

Carnegie Institution for Science

New work led by Carnegie’s Jonathan Gagné, Caltech’s Peter Gao, and Peter Plavchan from Missouri State University reports on a technological upgrade for one method of finding planets or confirming other planetary detections. One of the most-popular and successful techniques for finding and confirming planets is called the radial velocity method. A planet is obviously influenced by the gravity of the star it orbits; that’s what keeps it in orbit. As a result, astronomers are able to detect the tiny wobbles the planet induces as its gravity tugs on the star. But looking in the near-infrared will allow us to reject false positives caused by sunspots and other phenomena that will not look the same in near-infrared as they do in visible light, Radial velocity work in the near-infrared wavelengths has been conducted before, but it has trailed behind planet hunting in the visible spectrum, partially due to technical challenges.

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