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Instrument weighs exoplanets by observing their gravitational effects



  Photo of the NEID instrument
The NEID instrument was mounted on the 3.5 meter WIYN telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. The NASA-NSF partnership Exoplanet Observational Research (NN-EXPLORE) funded NEID (short for NN-EXPLORE Exoplanet Investigations with Doppler Spectroscopy) showed the first results of a new instrument for calculating the weight of removed exoplanets. The NN EXPLORE exoplanet studies using Doppler spectroscopy or NEID are an instrument attached to the Kitt Peak National Observatory's WIYN telescope and funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation by looking at the light coming from the stars and check whether there are periodic light dips. If this is the case, it indicates that a planet may be between the star and the earth. If this slump occurs on a set schedule, it indicates a planet in orbit.

The way NEID examines distant planets is different: it looks for a tell-tale “wobble” of the stars around which the planets move. The same thing happens in our solar system: when a massive planet like Jupiter moves around the sun, its strong gravity makes the sun move back and forth at a speed of about 1

3 meters per second. Earth also produces this effect, although it is smaller and less massive and only causes 0.3 feet per second wobble. The larger the planet in relation to the star and the closer it is, the more wobble movements it causes.

Other instruments can detect wobbles of 1 meter per second, but NEID is more sensitive and can detect with the triple precision of these previous instruments. This means that it can find rocky planets orbiting smaller stars than our Sun and has a greater chance of locating smaller Earth-sized planets.

By observing the wobbling of the stars, researchers can find out all sorts of information about orbiting planets, including their diameter, mass, and density. The density indicates whether the planet is rocky or gaseous, and the distance from the star gives an indication of the surface temperature. Researchers may be able to locate Earth-like planets at a distance from Sun-like stars in an orbit where liquid water could be on their surface.

The NEID image with the first light was shown this week at The 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu shows the light detected by the sun-like star 51 Pegasi in the constellation Pegasus. Editor's recommendations





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