Have scientists discovered a new way to find alien life?

Have scientists discovered a new way to find alien life?

A new study published in Science Advance posits the theory of using a star’s gravitational pull on nearby planets to determine if the planet has the potential to support life.

A new study published in Science Advance posits the theory of using a star’s gravitational pull on nearby planets to determine if the planet has the potential to support life. New technology allows scientists today to better measure the properties of far-flung planets and stars. Gravity can thus be calculated by measuring the brightness of a star.

“Our technique can tell you how big and bright is the star, and if a planet around it is the right size and temperature to have water oceans, and maybe life,” said co-author Professor Jaymie Matthews of the University of British Columbia, Canada.

The team from the University of Vienna compared the brightness of distance stars as measured by the Kepler space telescope. Variations in light indicate the turbulence and vibration on the surface of the star and can, therefore, be used to calculate the gravitational effect on nearby planets.

The surface gravity of a planet can be assessed by the mass and radius of its star. The technique has so far shown a four percent rate of accuracy.

“If you don’t know the star, you don’t know the planet,” said Professor Matthews. “The size of an exoplanet is measured relative to the size of its parent star. If you find a planet around a star that you think is Sun-like but is actually a giant, you may have fooled yourself into thinking you’ve found a habitable Earth-sized world. Our technique can tell you how big and bright is the star, and if a planet around it is the right size and temperature to have water oceans, and maybe life.”

Researchers hope that their work will help narrow the field of which distant stars to search for liquid water and life.

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