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

A Black Hole Consumed a Star and Released the Light of a Trillion Suns

When a flash of light appears somewhere in the sky, astronomers notice. When it appears…

8 hours ago

Sometimes Astronomy isn’t About What you see, but What you don’t see

Constraints are critical in any scientific enterprise. If a hypothesis predicts that there should be…

11 hours ago

SpaceX’s Super Heavy Fires 11 of its Engines in a Long-Duration Test

SpaceX conducted another static fire test with its BN7 prototype, this time firing up eleven…

12 hours ago

“Good Night Oppy” Beautifully Illustrates the Unbreakable Bond Between Humans and our Robotic Explorers

In January 2004, NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity (aka “Oppy”) landed in two completely different…

1 day ago

Do Exoplanet Scientists Have Favorite Exoplanets?

Exoplanets have become quite the sensation over the last decade-plus, with scientists confirming new exoplanets…

1 day ago

With a Small Network of Satellites Around Mars, Rovers Could Navigate Autonomously

When it comes to "on the ground" exploration of Mars, rovers make pretty good advance…

1 day ago