In a recent study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a team of international researchers examined exoplanet TOI-4860 b, which is located approximately 80 parsecs (261 light-years) from Earth and has an orbital period of approximately 1.52 days around a low-mass star, or a star smaller than our Sun. Exoplanets orbiting so close to their parent stars aren’t uncommon and commonly known as “hot Jupiters”.
However, TOI-4860 b is unique due its relative size compared to its parent star, along with its lower surface temperatures compared to “hot Jupiters” and possessing large amounts of heavy elements. These attributes are why researchers are classifying TOI-4680 b as a “warm Jupiter”, and could challenge traditional planetary systems formation models while offering new insights into such processes, as well.
SpaceX’s Starlink satellite system has been in the news lately for both good and ill. The “Mega-constellation” of around 2,800 satellites added another 53 satellites to its roster just last week. But while it might one day provide high-speed internet for the whole of humanity, it is already causing a massive headache for one particular slice of humanity – astronomers. Starlink satellites are reflective due to the solar panels they need to power themselves.
With exoplanet discoveries coming at us several times a month, finding these worlds is a hot field of research. Once the planets are found and confirmed, however, there’s a lot more that has to be done to understand them. What are they made of? How habitable are they? What are their atmospheres like? These are questions we are only beginning to understand.
One long-standing exoplanet researcher argues that we don’t know very much about about alien planet atmospheres, as an example. Princeton University’s Adam Burrows says that not only is our understanding at an infancy, but the media and scientists overhype information based on very little data.
“Exoplanet research is in a period of productive fermentation that implies we’re doing something new that will indeed mature,” Burrows stated in a story posted on Princeton Journal Watch. “Our observations just aren’t yet of a quality that is good enough to draw the conclusions we want to draw.”
Burrow’s skepticism comes from how information on exoplanet atmospheres is collected. That uses a method called low-resolution photometry, which shows changes in light and radiation emitted from an object such as a planet. This could be affected by things such as a planet’s rotation and cloud cover.
Burrows’ solution is to use spectrometry, which can glean physical information through looking at light spectra, but that would be a challenge given the existing exoplanet-seeking infrastructure in space and on Earth uses telescopes that generally rely on other methods.
A simple, yet elegant method of measuring the surface gravity of a star has just been discovered. These computations are important because they reveal stellar physical properties and evolutionary state – and that’s not all. The technique works equally well for estimating the size of hundreds of exoplanets. Developed by a team of astronomers and headed by Vanderbilt Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Keivan Stassun, this new technique measures a star’s “flicker”. Continue reading “Flicker… A Bright New Method of Measuring Stellar Surface Gravity”