HomeAstronomyScientists learn to spot alien worlds orbiting exotic stars

Scientists learn to spot alien worlds orbiting exotic stars

A new technique could help astronomers detect exoplanets that orbit exotic binary star systems called cataclysmic variables. 

Such systems comprise two stars that orbit each other so closely that the larger body transfers mass to its smaller companion. This material forms a thin, bright accretion disk before falling to the receiving star. But when a third body, like a planet, is orbiting the pair of stars, it can disturb the flow of this material and change the brightness of the disk. The new method of exoplanet detection, developed by a team led by Carlos Chávez, a researcher at the Autonomous University of Nuevo León in Mexico, relies on that disruption.

“Our work has proven that a third body can perturb a cataclysmic variable in such a way that can induce changes in brightness in the system,” Chávez said in a statement (opens in new tab). “These perturbations can explain both the very long periods that have been observed — between 42 and 265 days — and the amplitude of those changes in brightness.”

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