Scientists have directly observed exoplanets in a whole new way, thanks to the instruments of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope Interferometer.
Telescopes more than just lenses and mirrors – they advanced detectors of electromagnetic radiation, designed to overcome many of the problems of observing very distant objects & # 39. Exoplanets be particularly difficult to image because they are thousands of times weaker than the stars they orbit. A new kind of observation with an optical interferometry with the severity of the tool with the & # 39 is another important tool, as it can measure the light from exoplanets directly, rather than on the basis of how they change the light from the stars they orbit.
"This is a technical achievement for us," first author Sylvestre Lacour research team leader and a researcher at the CNRS Observatoire Paris-PSL, Gizmodo said. "We have done what no one could do before."
The researchers observed HR 8799e, as a young Jupiter exoplanets orbiting a bright star called HR 8799, 39.4 parsecs (128.5 light-years) away. This is not a recently discovered exoplanet, but this is the first time scientists were able to observe any exoplanets using optical interferometry. Their results are published in Astronomy and Astrophysics.
HR 8799 is directly visualized by MBT (but not by optical interferometry).
Optical interferometry is similar to other forms of interferometry, we sometimes write about. Researchers took both visible light observations using four 8-meter Very Large Telescope units in Chile and lined observation later. This is similar to the construction of a large mirror to collect light in the central chamber, but instead of mirrors that reflect light in the same place, it is physically on the & # 39; to combine light from four telescopes, thanks to the tool weight.
This is a typical tool in astronomy radio instruments, but do these measurements in the spectrum of the optical light can help researchers gather more information. "It brings a better measurement accuracy in the position of the planets, and it brings the best knowledge of the spectra of the planet", that is the color of the emitted light, which help researchers to determine what materials are in the atmosphere of the planet, Lacour said.
The results are shown some surprises: HR-8799e contains more carbon monoxide than methane, which was unexpected based on the calculation chemistry. Lacour said Gizmodo, which may wind on the vertical planet were prevent methane which form chemical reactions occur.
A few remarks: No, it does not mean that now we can directly image exoplanets optical light, because this method does not give quite the image, and receive data in some mathematically transform spectrum. "It is not good to show," said Lacour. In addition, we do not have the ability to hunt for viewing biosignatures, signs that life has already changed the atmosphere of the planet, although it is unlikely that the planet Jupiter will include such signature anyway.
Nevertheless, this is an exciting observation for the team -a new tool with which to observe an exoplanet that could potentially lead to important new discoveries.
Top images: ESO / L. Calçada