Astrobiology Top 10: Astronomers Anticipate 100 Billion Earth-Like Planets
Researchers at The University of Auckland have proposed a new method for finding Earth-like planets, and they anticipate that the number will be in the order of 100 billion.
Whereas Kepler measures the loss of light from a star when a planet orbits between us and the star, microlensing measures the deflection of light from a distant star that passes through a planetary system en route to Earth -- an effect predicted by Einstein in 1936.
In recent years, microlensing has been used to detect several planets as large as Neptune and Jupiter. Dr. Yock and colleagues have proposed a new microlensing strategy for detecting the tiny deflection caused by an Earth-sized planet. Simulations carried out by Dr. Yock and his colleagues -- students and former students from The University of Auckland and France -- showed that Earth-sized planets could be detected more easily if a worldwide network of moderate-sized, robotic telescopes was available to monitor them.
Coincidentally, just such a network of 1-m and 2-m telescopes is now being deployed by Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT) in collaboration with SUPA/St. Andrews (Scottish Universities Physics Alliance), with three telescopes in Chile, three in South Africa, three in Australia, and one each in Hawaii and Texas. This network is used to study microlensing events in conjunction with the Liverpool Telescope in the Canary Islands, which is owned and operated by Liverpool John Moores University.
It is expected that the data from this suite of telescopes will be supplemented by measurements using the existing 1.8-m MOA telescope at Mt. John, the 1.3-m Polish telescope in Chile known as OGLE, and the recently opened 1.3-m Harlingten telescope in Tasmania.
This story has been translated into Portuguese
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