Introducing the Astrocomb: A New Tool to Expand our Search for Exoplanets

Aerospace is part of a collaborative effort to build the Astrocomb, a new tool that will strengthen the search for distant worlds and demonstrate the power of this next-generation technology.

The Astrocomb leverages optical frequency comb (OFC) technology to aid in the hunt for exoplanets, worlds beyond our solar system. Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

How to Identify an Exoplanet

A spectrograph breaks down light into a rainbow of different colors. Each type of star has a unique signature represented by its pattern of spectral lines. When the star wobbles, its light is Doppler-shifted, making those lines appear bluer or redder as it moves closer or further away from observers on Earth. Noting these changes can help scientists identify if there is a planet orbiting that star.

A star’s light is Doppler-shifted when it wobbles. This observance can be a clue when identifying exoplanets. Credit: Keck Institute for Space Studies / Chuck Carter

Combing Through the Universe

The Astrocomb will offer the spectrograph stability by serving as a highly sensitive calibration source. The team fully achieved their intended spectrum in the spring, producing all of the wavelengths necessary to calibrate the spectrograph.

The Astrocomb will be commissioned at the W.M. Keck Observatory and search for exoplanets around cooler, quieter stars. Credit: W.M. Keck Observatory



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