Astronomers Discover A New Way To Measure Surface Gravity Of Distant Stars

Posted: Jan 4 2016, 2:55am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Astronomers Discover a New Way to Measure Surface Gravity of Distant Stars
Credit: NASA/ Hubble Space Telescope

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New technique will help find habitable planets beyond our solar system.

Researchers have found a new way to measure gravitational pull of distant stars. The gravity is necessary for determining whether the planet orbiting around the host star can support life on its surface.

Measuring surface gravity means knowing how much a person would weigh on the star that had a solid surface to stand on it. It indicates that your weight would change from star to star. A person would weigh 20 times more on the sun than he was on the Earth while on a red giant star that has a much weaker pull at its surface, a person will be 50 times lighter.

The new technique called the autocorrelation function timescale technique takes into account the variations in brightness of distant stars which are observed through satellites like MOST and NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope.

“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 plants like our Earth.” Lead author Thomas Kallinger from University of Vienna, Austria said.

Since many stars, spotted by NASA’s Kepler mission, are too distant and too faint that even their basic properties cannot be measured accurately. The new technique measures surface gravity with up to 4% more accurately than current techniques.

Surface gravity of a star depends on it mass and radius like our weight on Earth is determined by the mass and radius of Earth. This technique will help find habitable planets beyond the solar system.

“If you don’t know the star, you don’t know the planet,” said co-author professor Jaymie Mathews from University of British Colombia. “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-size world.”

When future satellite will hunt for life-friendly planets in outer space, they will require best possible information about their host stars which will help assess whether these planets have moderate temperatures, could they maintain liquid water on their surfaces and do they have atmosphere suitable for life.

Jaymie Matthews says. “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.”

The new study was published in Science Advances.

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