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Astronomers Figured Out How to Weigh Entire Planets Using Starlight

RATE THIS! +13
Posted in Science on 22nd Dec, 2013 05:27 AM by AlexMuller

Weighing a planet is a tough task. It’s not like you can just put them on a bathroom scale. And, while astronomers figured out how to measure the mass of planets in our solar system a long time ago, it’s practically impossible to weigh exoplanets. Well, it was until recently.

 

MIT planetary scientists Julien de Wit and Sara Seager just devised a method that enables them to weigh an exoplanet by measuring the starlight that shines through its atmosphere.  When an exoplanet passes in front of its star, it causes a blip in the amount of light that shines toward Earth. This is actually how we’re able to discover exoplanets in the first place.
 
Not all of the starlight zooms past the exoplanet, though. Some is actually filtered through the atmosphere, and by measuring the spectrum of that light, the MIT scientists are able to learn all kinds of things about the planet, such as atmospheric pressure, temperature, and gravitational pull. With that information, they’ve come up with a new method for calculating not just atmospheric chemistry but a planet’s weight and mass.

Tags: planetexoplanetspacestarEarthweigh exoplanets

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Comments

Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-12-22
+1
Great method. I assume that one had to have some idea what is an echo planet made of to be able to estimate its weight - they can use a combination of indirect parameters to do it
2 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-12-22
+0
A new way to weigh the mass of distant alien worlds could help reveal key details about how friendly they may be to life- important to know Reply
Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-12-22
+1
In the past two decades, astronomers have confirmed the existence of about 1000 planets outside the solar system and discovered more than 2,000 potential worlds. I agree that now, instead of just detecting these exoplanets, they need to analyze them in detail, helping answer questions such as whether they are potentially habitable.
1 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-12-22
+0
So much emphasis in space exploration recently has been on possibility of colonisation - well why not? Reply
Reply


 

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