Thursday, January 12, 2006

Interferometer Makes Planet Hunting a Snap!

Planet hunting is big business these days. Hundreds of extra-solar worlds have been discovered using the Doppler-shift technique to track them, some may even harbor life.

Using an interferometer on their telescopes rather than a spectrograph, astronomers can use telescopes with mirrors less than 1 meter in size (far less expensive and more readily available than the bigger mirrors) to find planets.

This technique led to the recent discovery of a planet half the size of Jupiter circling a very young star 100 light years away. Because it's cheaper and quicker than conventional methods, astronomers predict they will search 100 times as many stars for planets in the coming decade as they did in the last.

Once a life-bearing world is found it will only be a matter of time until somebody decides to check it out....

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