New technique can be used on more distant stars in the search for life on other worlds.
A BBC.com report says astronomers have developed a new technology to more accurately measure the gravitational pull of distant planets and stars, which can be used to evaluate whether or not a heavenly body has potential to support life.
The findings appear in the journal Science Advances, and suggest the new technique can determine the gravitational pull of a star, based on how big and bright the star is, and if it has a planet around it that would be the right size and have the correct temperatures to contain water, or possibly some form of life.
Previously, scientists have measured the surface gravity, the intensity of force that pulls everything down to the center of an object, by evaluating a star’s brightness, but that technique only works well for stars that are near to us.
The research team, led by Thomas Kallinger of the University of Viennna, used a space telescope to measure the timescale of turbulence and vibration on the surface of a star, resulting in brightness variations, and that can give them a more accurate measurement of the star’s gravity field.
Dr. Kallinger says this new method can be used with data from other searches to understand the nature of our own Sun and assist in locating other stars similar to ours that may have other planets like Earth.
Future space missions will be looking for just such planets and this new information may be their guide to the universe, by pointing them to planets that may contain liquid oceans and have the potential for sustaining life.
Co-researcher professor Jaymie Matthews said, “If you don’t know the star, you don’t know the planet. 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. “