A new technique for imaging planets

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A new technique for imaging planets

Post by Led_Zep on 11th July 2018, 3:53 pm

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180618113030.htm

It's been impossible to obtain images of an exoplanet, so dazzling is the light of its star. However, astronomers have the idea of detecting molecules that are present in the planet's atmosphere in order to make it visible, provided that these same molecules are absent from its star. Thanks to this innovative technique, the device is sensitive to the selected molecules, making the star invisible and allowing the astronomers to observe the planet.

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To test this new technique, Jens Hoeijmakers and an international team of astronomers used archival images taken by the SINFONI instrument of the star beta pictoris, which is known to be orbited by a giant planet, beta pictoris b. Each pixel in these images contains the spectrum of light received by that pixel. The astronomers then compared the spectrum contained in the pixel with a spectrum corresponding to a given molecule, for example water vapour, to see if there is a correlation. If there is a correlation, it means that the molecule is present in the atmosphere of the planet.
By applying this technique to beta pictoris b, Jens Hoeijmakers notices that the planet becomes perfectly visible when he looks for water (H2O) or carbon monoxide (CO). However, when he applies his technique to methane (CH4) and ammonia (NH3), the planet remains invisible, suggesting the absence of these molecules in the atmosphere of beta pictoris b
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