Astrocomb to help hunt for planets, aliens

  1. Scientists from National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) have developed an Astrocomb. It is a custom made frequency comb which can precisely measure frequencies or colours of light.
  2. The instrument will help the precision needed for discovering and characterising planets orbiting M dwarf stars. M dwarfs (also known as red dwarfs) are the most common stars, comprising nearly 70% of all the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.
  3. A star’s nuclear furnace emits white light. This light is modified by elements in the atmosphere that absorb certain narrow bands of colour. There are oscillations in colour due to the gravitational pull of an orbiting planet. Astronomers look into these periodic changes in colour to search for planets orbiting distant stars.