Mount John Observatory in New Zealand to begin looking for Earth-like planets around our closest neighbour, Alpha Centauri

Thursday, December 03, 2009

You can read about it here. As the article points out, one difficulty in finding planets around a system one would think we would have found a large number of planets by now is its location; the triple star system is located such that only some of the southernmost observatories can see it throughout the year, and discovering planets around a star system requires very long-term observation. The less densely population southern hemisphere of the Earth simply doesn't have as many observatories as in the north.

As their Wikipedia page notes, this observatory has already discovered a fairly small planet, one still stuck with the unfortunately long name MOA-2007-BLG-192Lb.

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The article also notes that though we have yet to embark upon a sustained attempt to detect Earth-like planets around Alpha Centauri, we are certain that there are no Jupiter-like planets orbiting it at a certain distance, and around Proxima Centauri we are sure that there are no Neptune-sized or greater planets orbiting at 1 AU. So we do know to a certain extent what isn't there, but models of this system show that there should be some planets there that we haven't been able to confirm or deny the existence of just yet.

If you want to see exactly what the sky looks at from Mount John Observatory compared to other locations throughout the world, try Stellarium.


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