Thanks to the ability of astronomers to detect the presence of extrasolar planets orbiting distant stars, scientists today are able to examine hundreds of solar systems. Now researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. have created an "astro-comb" to help astronomers detect lighter planets, more like Earth, around distant stars.
The Harvard group will present their findings at the 2009 Conference on Lasers and Electro Optics/International Quantum Electronics Conference (CLEO/IQEC), which takes place May 31 to June 5 at the Baltimore Convention Center.
In most cases, extrasolar planets can't be seen directly—the glare of the nearby star is too great—but their influence can be discerned through spectroscopy, which analyzes the energy spectrum of the light coming from the star. Not only does spectroscopy reveal the identity of the atoms in the star (each element emits light at a certain characteristic frequency), it can also tell researchers how fast the star is moving away or toward Earth, courtesy of the Doppler effect, which occurs whenever a source of waves is itself in motion. By recording the change in the frequency of the waves coming from or bouncing off of an object, scientists can deduce the velocity of the object.
This process is used to judge the speed of automobiles, storm systems, fastballs, and stars. How can it be used to deduce the presence of a planet? Though the planet might weigh millions of times less than the star, the star will be jerked around a tiny amount owing to the gravity interaction between star and planet. This jerking motion causes the star to move toward or away from Earth slightly in a way that depends on the planet's mass and its nearness to the star. The better the spectroscopy used in this whole process, the better will be the identification of the planet in the first place and the better will be the determination of planetary properties.
Right now standard spectroscopy techniques can determine star movements to within a few meters per second (m/sec). In tests, the Harvard researchers are now able to calculate star velocity shifts of less than 1 m/sec, allowing them to more accurately pinpoint the planet's location.
Smithsonian researcher David Phillips says that he and his colleagues expect to reach a velocity resolution of 60 cm/sec, and maybe even 1 cm/sec, which when applied to the activities of large telescopes presently under construction, would open new possibilities in astronomy and astrophysics, including simpler detection of more Earth-like planets.
With this new approach, Harvard astronomers achieve their great improvement using a frequency comb as the basis for the astro-comb. A special laser system is used to emit light not at a single energy but a series of energies (or frequencies), evenly spaced across a wide range of values. A plot of these narrowly-confined energy components would look like the teeth of a comb, hence the name frequency comb. The energy of these comb-like laser pulses is known so well that they can be used to calibrate the energy of light coming in from the distant star. In effect, the frequency comb approach sharpens the spectroscopy process. The resultant astro-comb should enable a further expansion of extrasolar planetary detection.
The astro-comb method has been tried out on a medium-sized telescope in Arizona and will soon be installed on the much larger William Herschel Telescope, which resides on a mountaintop in the Canary Islands.
Presentation CMII1, "Femtosecond Laser Frequency Comb for Precision Astrophysical Spectroscopy," Chih-Hao Li et al, 3:45 p.m., Monday, June 1.
With a distinguished history as one of the industry's leading events on laser science, the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics and the International Quantum Electronics Conference (CLEO/IQEC) is where laser technology was first introduced. CLEO/IQEC combines the strength of peer-reviewed scientific programming with an applications-focused exhibition to showcase the present and future of this technology. Sponsored by the American Physical Society's (APS) Laser Science Division, the Institute of Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Photonics Society and the Optical Society (OSA), CLEO/IQEC provides an educational forum, complete with a dynamic Plenary, short courses, tutorials, workshops and more, on topics as diverse as its attendee base whose broad spectrum of interests range from biomedicine to defense to optical communications and beyond. For more information, visit the conference's Web site at www.cleoconference.org.
New type of smart windows use liquid to switch from clear to reflective
14.12.2017 | The Optical Society
New ultra-thin diamond membrane is a radiobiologist's best friend
14.12.2017 | American Institute of Physics
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
14.12.2017 | Health and Medicine
14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
14.12.2017 | Life Sciences