Exotopography, new research field

Moiya McTier, a Columbia University astronomer, declared that in the near future it is possible “seeing mountains and valleys on distant worlds”.

How could it be? I’m about to tell you.

On 11th of January 2018 she presented some analysis at the American Astronomical Society, showing about working in a new research field, the exotopography.

This last is a young branch of astrophysics, focused on topography exoplanet perspective.

She used the maps of our four terrestrial planets and the moon (made by US Geological Survey) to determine what their light curves around. Then, the astronomer declared also that by analysing the dip in a star’s light as a planet passes in front of it, we might be able to discern actual details about the planet’s landscape (source: newscientist.com).

Next telescopes generation as “30 Meter Telescope” or “ESO European Extremely Large”, could distinguish visible fluctuation figures from a simple “noise”, even after 20 hours of data on planetary transits.

To obtain meaningful signals, planet and star should be of similar size, because some events like stars flare, tremors, oceanic events or weather distortion could create similar signals such as those caused by variations on planetary surface.

If we were able to delate these “noises”, we could achieve topographic maps about extra-solar planets where it would be possible to clearly recognise their rotational speed, daily length, availability and disposition of oceans.

(Written by Carlotta Bellisai)



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