Alien Planet Hunters’ New ‘Laser Comb’ May Help Pinpoint Earth-Like Worlds

Alien planets may possibly be easier to spot utilizing new ‘laser comb.’ The picture above illustrates component of a spectrum of a star obtained employing the HARPS instrument on the ESO 3.6-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.

Astronomers looking for alien planets may possibly be a step closer to finding correct Earth-like worlds all around sun-like stars, by making use of a new instrument that guarantees to boost the accuracy of planet-hunting instruments tenfold, scientists say.

The laser frequency comb is a calibration device especially designed for huge ground-primarily based telescopes that search for alien planets through the “wobble method,” which identifies extrasolar planets by the gravitational impact (the wobble) they have on their parent stars.

Today instruments such as the European Southern Observatory’s Substantial Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) spectrograph on a telescope in Chile observe planets through the wobble method.

So far, telescopes using this method, which measures the Doppler shift of starlight, have lacked the precision to identify rocky alien planets that could boast water as they orbit sun-like stars, considered the most likely to give birth to life.

A laser comb for planet-hunting scopes

As its name suggests, the laser frequency comb emits many lines of light spread apart like the teeth of a comb. Because the distance between the teeth is known, the spectrograph, responsible for reading the light from the star, can use the comb to ascertain that it is correctly reading the stellar signal.

Sources and more information:

• Earth-Like Planet Search Gets Boost from Laser Comb

‘Laser Comb’ May Aid Search for Earth-Like Alien Planets by Nola Taylor Redd, Contributor Date: 30 May 2012 Time: 03:53 PM ET FOLLOW US SHARE This picture illustrates part of a spectrum of a star obtained using the HARPS instrument on the ESO 3.6-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.

• Research team uses a laser frequency comb to calibrate spectrographs

( — In the never ending quest to find out if there is life out there beyond our own planet, astronomers, astrophysicists and other researchers use all manner of tools to scan the sky looking for likely places the most likely of course, being on a planet that is similar to our own. The problem thus far though, is that instruments used to…

• Exoplanet Hunters Get a Technology Boost in Search for Earth-like Planets

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