Second stars can distort planet size estimates

When light from a star is blocked by another celestial body — as when the moon obstructed light from the much-larger sun during the recent solar eclipse — astronomers can estimate the density of exoplanets that orbit the star. And from the density, they can determine whether a planet is rocky like Earth or gaseous like Jupiter. But a new study in the Astronomical Journal shows that such density assessments, which are normally calculated from the size of the planet, may be skewed by the presence of “hidden” stars.

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Sarah Derouin

Sarah Derouin is an EARTH editorial intern.

Derouin is freelance writer. Before becoming a science writer, Derouin earned a Ph.D. in glacial geology from the University of Cincinnati and worked for the Bureau of Reclamation in seismic hazards and geomorphology. She is a graduate of the science communication program at the University of California-Santa Cruz. You can see more of her work at www.sarahderouin.com.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 - 06:00