Astronomers using new technology may not only have found a super-Earth to a neighboring star, but they may have imagined it directly. And it can be nice and cozy in the livable area around Alpha Centauri.
It is much easier to see giant planets than Earth-sized planets. No matter which detection method is used, the larger planets are just larger needles in the cosmic grass belt. But overall, astronomers are very interested in the same planets as Earth. And they are more difficult to find.
We thought we would have to wait for the ultra-power telescopes currently before we could create an image of the Explanate directly.
Features such as the Giant Magellan Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope will bring tremendous observational power to withstand the task of exoplanet imaging.
But a team of researchers has developed a new technology that might make this work. They say they imagined a possible sub-Neptune / super-Earth-sized planet around our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri.
The team presented in an article in their observations Nature Communications Title “Imaging of low-mass planets in the habitable zone of uri centauri.” The lead author is Kevin Wagner, an astronomer and Sagan Fellow at the University of Arizona.
While astronomers have previously found low-mass exoplanets, they have never sensed their light. They have seen the planets reveal themselves by tugging at their stars. When they pass in front of a star they look like the light of the stars that sink into these planets.
But they never directly imagined anyone. So far, maybe.
This new discovery method comes down to infrared. One of the challenges in imaging an Earth-sized exoplanet in infrared is to understand the light coming from the exoplanet when it is illuminated by background infrared radiation from a star.
Astronomers can detect exoplanets in wavelengths where the background infrared has diminished, but temperate Earth-like planets are dirty in the same wavelength.
One method is to look at the nearest infrared (NIR) part of the spectrum. In NIR, the planet’s thermal glow is not washed away by the stars. But starlights are still blind and millions of times brighter than Earth. So only N.I.R. Looking into is not a perfect solution.
This may be the nearest (New Earths in the Alphacan field) tool used for research. The ESO (European Southern Observatory) in nearby Chile is located on a very large telescope (VLT). It also works on VLT, with VISIR tool. The group behind NEAR is Breakthrough and Watch, part of Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Initiative.
The nearest instrument not only observes the desired part of the infrared spectrum, but it also employs a coronograph.
The breakthrough group thought the NEAR instrument used on the 8-meter ground-based telescope would allow for better observation of the Alpha Centauri system and its planets.
So they built the instrument in collaboration with ESO and installed it on a very large telescope.
This new discovery came as a result of close and 100 hours of cumulative observations with VLT.
The authors write, “These results demonstrate the possibility of imaging of the right-zone exoplanet to be rocked with current and future telescopes.”
The 100-hour commissioning run was meant to demonstrate the power of the tool.
The team says that based on nearly 100 percent of the best images of the run, the nearby instrument a Centauri is “better than other methods of observing… hot sub-Neptune-sized planets” in most of its habitable zones.
They, too, probably found a planet. “We also discuss possible exoplanet or exogodycal disc probes in the vicinity,” he writes. “However, no equipment of unknown origin can be denied.”
This is not the first time astronomers have found exoplanets in the Alpha Centauri system.
There are many planets in the system, and there are other candidates as well.
But none of them have been directly imagined like this new potential planet, whose placeholder name is C1, and that is the first possible discovery around the system’s M-dwarf, Proxima Centauri.
Follow-up observations must confirm or cancel the search.
It is exciting to think that a hot-Neptune-class exoplanet could orbit a Sun-like star in our nearest neighboring star system. One of the goals of the Breakthrough Initiatives is to send a lightcell spacecraft into the Alpha Centauri system and give us a closer look.
But that possibility is currently out of reach. And in some ways, this discovery is not so much about the planet, but about the technology developed to find it.
The most discovered exoplanets are massive planets in quantities such as Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune. They are the easiest to find. But as humans on Earth, we are primarily interested in planets like our own.
Earth-like planets in the habitable zone of the star excite us about the possibilities of life on another planet. But they can also say a lot about our own solar system, and how solar systems are made and developed in general.
If C1 does not become a planet, the breakthrough group has succeeded in significant efforts. They are the first to discover an Earth-like planet through direct imaging.
Not only that, but they did so with an 8-meter, ground-based telescope and a specially designed and developed instrument to detect such planets in the Alpha Centauri system.
The authors believe that even close-up performance can be better than that of many large binoculars. The conclusion of the paper describes the overall sensitivity of the instrument. He then writes that “this is, in principle, enough to find an Earth-analog planet around Centauri A (~ 20 yJy) in these few hours, which is consistent with ELT’s expectations.”
The E-ELT will have a 39-meter primary mirror. One of its capabilities and design goals is to directly image the exoplanet, especially the smaller, earth-sized ones.
Of course, the E-ELT will be a very powerful telescope, which will undoubtedly stimulate long-term scientific discovery, not only in exoplanet imaging, but in a variety of ways.
And other giant ground-based telescopes will also replace the Exoplanet imaging game.
It would take hours to look closely at the E-ELT, the Thirty Meter Telescope, or the Giant Magellan Telescope.
Nearby she could not compete with telescopes and she never was.
But if these results are confirmed, then there has been near-success where no one else has, and for a fraction of the cost of a new telescope.
Either way, what the nearest did probably. Exoplanet represents research. Instead of extensively based surveys such as Kepler and TSES, scientists will soon be able to focus on individual planets.
This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.