New Star Gazing Technique Gives Alien Life Search A Shot In The Arm
January 04, 2016 11:31 AM EST
A new technique to detect surface gravity of stars has just expanded the arsenal of tools to search for life in the universe.
The technique measures surface gravity by detecting changes in brightness of a distant star. Even if only subtle changes are detected, the technique can measure surface gravity within four percent error. Knowledge of surface gravity can then lead to calculations of the star's mass and size, BBC reports.
"If you don't know the star, you don't know the planet," said study co-author, UBC Professor Jaymie Matthews of University of British Columbia.
"The size of an exoplanet is measured relative to the size of its parent star. If you find a planet around a star that you think is Sun-like but is actually a giant, you may have fooled yourself into thinking you've found a habitable Earth-sized world. Our technique can tell you how big and bright is the star, and if a planet around it is the right size and temperature to have water oceans, and maybe life."
Planets in habitable zone of a star system may contain oceans of liquid water and an atmosphere to sustain life as is known on Earth. The planet's size, its mass and its distance from the parent star determine its ability to contain life.
Matthews and his team that descried the technique in the journal Science Advances, said space telescopes like NASA's Kepler can detect brightness in the light emitted by distant stars and as future telescopes can get better at it, the technique would become extremely handy in cases when other direct means prove futile, reports Business Standard.
"The timescale technique is a simple but powerful tool that can be applied to the data from these searches to help understand the nature of stars like our Sun and to help find other planets like our Earth," the study's lead author Thomas Kallinger, said.