Scientists usually locate planets by observing their transit in front of their host stars. Otherwise, the planets are too weakly illuminated to be seen with telescopes. But a new scientific method emerges, and it promises a lot for the future of space exploration.
Scientists from the VLBA (Very Long Baseline Array) radio telescope network had been using the astrometric technique to find an exoplanet that resembles Saturn a lot. The method is used by measuring a wobble in the host star that’s caused by gravitational pull between the planet and the star itself.
Meet TVLM 513b
The exoplanet in question is TVLM 513b, and it orbits a star located only 35 light-years away. The discovery marks the first time when the astrometric technique was successfully utilized by astronomers in their search for other worlds.
Salvador Curiel from the National Autonomous University of Mexico declared:
Giant planets, like Jupiter and Saturn, are expected to be rare around small stars like this one, and the astrometric technique is best at finding Jupiter-like planets in wide orbits, so we were surprised to find a lower mass, Saturn-like planet in a relatively compact orbit. We expected to find a more massive planet, similar to Jupiter, in a wider orbit,
What makes the new exoplanet to resemble Saturn so much is that it’s also a gas giant. It also has a mass between 0.35 to 0.42 times that of Jupiter. TVLM 513b orbits its host star once every 221 days and at a distance of just 0.3 AU (astronomical units).
The new technique for finding exoplanets is more sensitive to massive planets located in orbits further away from the host star. We’re looking forward with great hope regarding future space explorations. Astronomers are still far from being able to see with a telescope what exactly dwells on exoplanets, but we have plenty of reasons to be optimistic that such a technology will emerge one day.
The study paper was published in the Astronomical Journal.