This Robotic Laser System On A Telescope Is Looking At Alien Planets

There’s a group of people probing exoplanets with a laser robot, and the results are showing a few surprises. Specifically, a survey of “hot Jupiters” — the huge gas giants in tight orbits around their parent stars — shows that they are more than three times likely to be found in double star systems than other kinds of exoplanets.

The robotic laser adaptive optics system, which is installed on California’s Palomar Observatory’s 1.5-meter telescope, also discovered double star systems that each have their own planetary systems, rather than sharing one.

“We’re using Robo-AO’s extreme efficiency to survey in exquisite detail all of the candidate exoplanet host stars that have been discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission,” stated Christoph Baranec, a researcher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Institute for Astronomy who led a paper on Robo-AO results.

“While Kepler has an unrivaled ability to discover exoplanets that pass between us and their host star, it comes at the price of reduced image quality, and that’s where Robo-AO excels.”

Lasers and adaptive optics are commonly used to account for changes in the atmosphere. A computer system helps the mirror change shape as the atmosphere swirls, providing clearer images for astronomers.

The Robo-AO survey cited looked at 715 candidate exoplanet systems that were first tracked down by NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope. The team is now planning to tackle the rest of the 4,000 Kepler planet candidate hosts.

Results from Robo-AO have been published in The Astrophysical Journal, here and here. You can also see a preprint version of one of these journal articles here.

Source: Institute for Astronomy University of Hawaii

Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Recent Posts

Researchers are Working on a Tractor Beam System for Space

Human technology is crossing another threshold. Tractor beams have been common in science fiction for…

59 mins ago

New Satellite Successfully Beams Power From Space

Researchers at Caltech have successfully tested their space solar power demonstrator (SSPD), showing it can…

4 hours ago

The Latest JWST Image Pierces Through a Shrouded Star-Forming Galaxy

Sometimes an image is so engrossing that we can ignore what it's telling us about…

6 hours ago

It Might Take Space Telescopes to Finally Resolve the Crisis in Cosmology

Gravitational wave (GW) observatories have been a great addition to cosmologists' arsenal in the lack…

10 hours ago

NASA Has a Plan to Power the Moon

Despite all the hype surrounding the coming of the commercial space age, NASA and other…

10 hours ago

Starliner Faces New Delays for Crewed Flights to ISS

While the SpaceX Crew Dragon is making regular trips to and from the International Space…

12 hours ago