In 2017, astronomers and astrophysicists gathered at Stanford University to share research on the search for extrasolar planets resembling Earth. It turns out that the key to the search will be the old technologies in newer directions.
The event began with a speech by Queen Mary Guillem Anglad-Eskud, an astronomer at the University of London, who decided to discuss why red dwarfs, like the neighboring Proxima Centauri, are more likely to have rocky planets. Part of the answer is that M-dwarfs are a common star type.
The search for exoplanets is developing rapidly. A few months after the plan for the Starshot Breakthrough project was announced in April 2016, they found the planet Proxima Centauri b in August already b. This small world is located in the habitable zone of the star Proxima Centauri. Anglada-Escuda also stressed that scientists themselves are becoming better at finding exoplanets, because detection technologies have existed for years.
Anglada Escuda said:
“The devices we used in 2010 are no different from the designs of 2002”.
But the main obstacle was the development of a plan for using these tools and deciding where to look for planets.
These achievements serve the purpose of the Breakthrough Initiatives program. The task of the organization is to find extraterrestrial life and to establish contact with it. This is a huge goal, but the group, funded by Milner, Hawking and Zuckerberg, has the resources to make it happen.
Guillem Anglada Escuda explains cosmic distances with a simple example: if the pizza is in Jupiter’s orbit, the Alpha Centauri star is distant for a long distance (indicated by the arrow).
As astronomers improve their knowledge of using available telescopes to effectively search for planets, the detection of intergalactic life is becoming more and more thoughtful every year. But it is important to understand that the study of Proxima Centauri b is a complex process, because the planet is located much further than Mars’s favorite or familiar Pluto.
Guillem Anglada Eskude notes that red dwarfs have a high probability of the presence of inhabited planets, so it makes no sense to look at all the stars one by one. How do researchers search for exoplanets? One of the main methods is transit photometry. It is the process of measuring how the light of a star changes when the planet flies before us and with it. Reducing the light level allows you to determine the orbital period and the size of the planet.
When the planet passes in front of a star, the brightness level decreases and then returns to its usual indicators.
But the problem with the technique is that the planets must be aligned with the line of sight. Unfortunately, 98% of the planets follow a strange orbit and are not captured by transit photometry. Therefore, it is necessary to approach with great creativity to existing technologies, such as high-contrast direct image and spectrum improvement.
But detection alone is not enough.
Guillem Anglada Escuda explains:
“If you really want to confirm that something is a planet, then you need to conduct an experiment to prove or eliminate it”.
This is one of the important conclusions of the conference, since science gets brilliant breakthrough results only because scientists are not lazy to spend years searching and checking data.