Can We Directly Detect Exoplanets and Protoplanetary Disks? (Astronomy)

What would be your answer if I asked you, how can we directly detect exoplanets and protoplanetary disks? Or what kind of technology needed for it? I know many of you dont know the answer of this question, but today you will get it.

Guys, detecting exoplanets and protoplanetary disks directly with the help of current extremely large telescopes (ELT’s) is not at all possible. However, the next/new generation of ELTs provides the necessary resolution to probe close to a significant number of M-type stars.

Secondly, if we want to directly detect exoplanets and protoplanetary disks, we will need high accuracy wavefront sensing and control (WFS&C) technologies, especially for ground-based Extremely Large Telescopes (ELTs).

Figure 1: On-sky PSF in seeing limited mode (left), after the first stage of correction by AO188 (middle), after SCExAO correction (right). With SCExAO correction, the PSF is more stable and the speckle halo surrounding the core is fainter © Kyohoon Ahn et al.

One instrument that will help us target Earth-like planets in the habitable zone of M-type stars in the future is the Planetary System Imager (PSI), planned to be installed on the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). But, some major hardware upgrades like replacement of the current 188-actuator DM with the ALPAO 64×64 actuator DM or addition of beam switcher etc. and software upgrades like new advanced HCI technologies such as coherent differential imaging, predictive control, sensor fusion or real-time post-processing etc. are needed and this shall be achieved in next few years.

Figure 2: Hardware upgrades scheduled for the AO188: (a) NIR PyWFS, (b) new 64×64 ALPAO DM, (c) future configuration at the Nasmyth platform including a new beam switcher, allowing to split the light between the SCExAO and the IRCS, as well as other potential future instruments, and (d) a optomechanical design of the beam switcher. © Kyohoon Ahn et al.

Moreover, another high contrast imaging instrument like Subaru Coronagraphic Extreme Adaptive Optics (SCExAO) will be able to directly image young Jupiter-mass planets closer to the habitable zone, down to 3 AU, where they should be more abundant. This will give us more insight on the planet population around the habitable zone. Finally, a few older Jupiter-size planets should be reached by looking at the reflected light for the first time.


For more:

Kyohoon Ahn et al., “SCExAO, a testbed for developing high-contrast imaging technologies for ELTs”, pp. 1-13, 2021. https://arxiv.org/abs/2109.13353


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