Bengaluru astronomers develop method to better study exoplanets

Indian astronomers have developed a new method that could help better study the atmosphere of exoplanets using the polarization of light.

Their breakthrough is an algorithm that can increase the accuracy of exoplanet data by reducing contamination from Earth’s own atmosphere and disturbance from instrumental effects and other factors. This algorithm, called the Critical Noise Processing Algorithm, can help study the environment of exoplanets with better precision.

The algorithm was the result of the efforts of a team of researchers at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) in Bengaluru who sought to understand the physical properties of exoplanets. The team’s goal was to explore Earth-like exoplanets and therefore try to identify which ones might be habitable.

Professor Sujan Sengupta of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) in Bengaluru, had suggested decades ago that thermal radiation from exoplanets orbiting other stars would also be polarized. By measuring this polarization, he said scientists could also decipher the chemical composition and other atmospheric traits of these plants.

With this in mind, Professor Sengupta and his doctoral students Aritra Chakrabarty and Suman Saha have recently started using the ground-based optical telescopes available in India and data obtained from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) space telescope. Almost immediately, they encountered challenges.

By cataloging the photometric data of several stars hosting planets, they discovered that the transit signals are strongly affected by noise from various sources that pose a challenge to accurately estimate the physical parameters of the planets.

This is where the team said it was forced to design a noise processing algorithm “that can process transit signals detected by terrestrial and space telescopes with much better accuracy than ever before.”

Saha and Sengupta demonstrated the effectiveness of this algorithm by critically analyzing data from the TESS space telescope, reducing instrumental noise and disturbances resulting from host star variability and pulsation, and accurately estimating physical parameters. of some exoplanets.

The work was published in The astronomical journal, a peer-reviewed scientific journal of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

The IIA team collects data on exoplanets using the Himalayan Chandra Telescope at the Hanle Indian Astronomical Observatory and the Jagadish Chandra Bhattacharyya Telescope at the Vainu Bappu Observatory in Kavalur.

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