Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Stellar Alignment: Rare Boost for Alien Planet-Hunting

Date: 03 June 2013 Time: 02:03 PM ET

Alpha Centauri and Surroundings
This wide-field view of the sky around the bright star Alpha Centauri was created from photographic images forming part of the Digitized Sky Survey 2. The star appears so big just because of the scattering of light by the telescope's optics as well as in the photographic emulsion. Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to the Solar System. Image released Oct. 17, 2012.
CREDIT: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2

The stars will align for planet hunters twice in the next three years, allowing them to probe the nearest star to our own solar system for Earth-size alien worlds.

Proxima Centauri, which lies just 4.24 light-years from Earth, will pass in front of background stars in both October 2014 and February 2016. Astronomers should scrutinize Proxima during these two periods, looking for subtle light shifts that could reveal the presence of close-orbiting planets, a new study reports.

"This is an opportunity to determine the mass of Proxima, and also detect planets up to 4 AU [astronomical units] around Proxima Centauri," Kailash Sahu, an astronomer with the Space Science Telescope Institute in Baltimore, Md., told reporters today (June 3) at the 222nd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Indianapolis.

More - Link >>> http://www.space.com/21409-proxima-centauri-alien-planet-search.html

NASA News Release: "NASA's Hubble Will Use Rare Stellar Alignment to Hunt for Planets" -
Link >>> http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2013/jun/HQ_13-163_Hubble_Microlensing.html

Source: Space.com .

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