Novel Techniques for Discovering Extrasolar Planets
19 June 2014

 
This is an artist rendition, showing a ringed exoplanet orbiting beyond the solar system, around a star.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC)

Extrasolar planets or exoplanets are planets orbiting outside the solar system. Astronomers have discovered around 1,800 exoplanets so far. The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has deployed a new sophisticated instrument, termed SPHERE, to allow discovering and imaging exoplanets.

Exoplanets are very difficult to observe directly, as they are extremely faint and mostly lost in the glare of their parent stars. They are often detected and monitored by applying indirect observational methods, such as observing the motion or brightness of their stars. 

SPHERE, comprising three innovative techniques, allows to block the dazzling light of an exoplanet’s star, and obtain high quality images, revealing the exoplanet’s existence. It has been installed on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), and already yielded exquisite images of interesting targets, including nearby stars, surrounded by discs of cosmic dust. The VLT is an array of eight large telescopes, which, when connected optically, can have the power of a single giant telescope. It is one of world’s largest and most advanced telescopes.

References
The ESO Website
Wikipedia

Aymen Mohamed Ibrahem
Senior Astronomy Specialist
 
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