NASA’s Kepler mission was able to find an exoplanet late last month. Now, astronomy has reached new heights, as a ground-based telescope was able to detect and find an exoplanet six months later.
In July, an exoplanet called Kepler-452b has been discovered by a NASA’s Kepler transit mission, and was referred to as a possible “Earth 2.0.” Jon Jenkins, data analysis leader at NASA’s Ames Research Center, describes the exoplanet as an “older, bigger cousin to Earth.”
Before, building billion-dollar spacecrafts was the preferred method to discover these heavenly bodies. Now, ground-based telescope are becoming more and more advanced, being equipped with the technology that can detect stars right from the Earth’s surface. In December 2014, the Nordic Optical Telescope on La Palma broke ground when it became the first ground-based telescope to observe an exoplanet called 55 Cancri e.
Six months later, the exoplanet 51 Eridani b has been discovered by the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI). The GPI is a new instrument on the 9-meter Gemini South Telescope situated in Chile. Chile is known for astronomers all over the world for having the clearest skies on the planet, and some of the world’s most advanced observatories are situated in the South American country.
Unlike spacecrafts that use the lengthy transit method, ground-based telescopes such as the Gemini South Telescope use direct imaging to detect exoplanets. These telescopes have adaptive optics, which are used to sharpen the images of the target star. The starlight is then blocked, and the incoming light that is left is analyzed with the brightest spots, which indicate the existence of an exoplanet.
James Graham, professor and project scientist for GPI, stated in a press release that the discovery of the 51 Eridani b perfectly hit the mission’s target.
“This is exactly the kind of planet we envisioned discovering when we designed GPI,” said Graham in the press release published by NASA.
51 Eridani b holds the record for the lowest mass exoplanet captured via direct imaging. According to Newsledge.com, its mass is twice that of Jupiter, and is the coldest, 400 degrees colder, among all the exoplanets spotted using direct imaging. Astronomers have noted that 51 Eridani b’s methane signature is similar to Jupiter’s in its early years. Mark Marley, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, confirms this theory.
“Since the atmosphere of 51 Eri b is also methane rich, it signifies that this planet is well on its way to becoming a cousin of our own familiar Jupiter,” said Marley in a report by Newsledge.
After these series of astral discoveries through direct imaging, astrophysicists are referring to ground-based telescopes as the tool for deep space research projects. These telescopes could open the door to more revolutionary space detections, signaling the future of astronomy.
The Santilli Telescope by Florida-based Thunder Energies (OTCQB: TNRG) has concave lenses that could be used for the detection of antimatter galaxies. Antimatter galaxies, if found, are expected to have the same composition, chemistry, absorption, and emission spectra as normal-matter galaxies. Before the manufacturing of the Santilli Telescope, antimatter galaxies were difficult to distinguish since they have the same astronomical objects.