. 24/7 Space News .
NASA scientist looks to AI, lensing to find masses of free-floating planets
by Julie Freijat for GSFC News
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Oct 07, 2021

This illustration shows a Jupiter-like planet alone in the dark of space, floating freely without a parent star. CLEoPATRA mission scientists hope to improve the mass estimates of such planets discovered through microlensing. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

Exoplanet hunters have found thousands of planets, most orbiting close to their host stars, but relatively few alien worlds have been detected that float freely through the galaxy as so-called rogue planets, not bound to any star. Many astronomers believe that these planets are more common than we know, but that our planet-finding techniques haven't been up to the task of locating them.

Most exoplanets discovered to date were found because they produce slight dips in the observed light of their host stars as they pass across the star's disk from our viewpoint. These events are called transits.

NASA's Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will conduct a survey to discover many more exoplanets using powerful techniques available to a wide-field telescope. The stars in our Milky Way galaxy move, and chance alignments can help us find rogue planets. When a free-floating planet aligns precisely with a distant star, this can cause the star to brighten. During such events, the planet's gravity acts as a lens that briefly magnifies the background star's light. While Roman may find rogue planets through this technique, called gravitational microlensing, there's one drawback - the distance to the lensing planet is poorly known.

Goddard scientist Dr. Richard K. Barry is developing a mission concept called the Contemporaneous LEnsing Parallax and Autonomous TRansient Assay (CLEoPATRA) to exploit parallax effects to calculate these distances. Parallax is the apparent shift in the position of a foreground object as seen by observers in slightly different locations. Our brains exploit the slightly different views of our eyes so we can see depth as well. Astronomers in the 19th century first established the distances to nearby stars using the same effect, measuring how their positions shifted relative to background stars in photographs taken when Earth was on opposite sides of its orbit.

It works a little differently with microlensing, where the apparent alignment of the planet and distant background star greatly depends on the observer's position. In this case, two well-separated observers, each equipped with a precise clock, would witness the same microlensing event at slightly different times. The time delay between the two detections allows scientists to determine the planet's distance.

To maximize the parallax effect, CLEoPATRA would hitch a ride on a Mars-bound mission that launches around the same time as Roman, currently scheduled for late 2025. That would place it in its own orbit around the Sun that would achieve a sufficient distance from Earth to effectively measure the microlensing parallax signal and fill in this missing information.

The CLEoPATRA concept would also support the PRime-focus Infrared Microlensing Experiment (PRIME), a ground-based telescope currently being outfitted with a camera using four detectors developed by the Roman mission. Mass estimates for microlensing planets detected by both Roman and PRIME will be significantly improved by simultaneous parallax observations provided by CLEoPATRA.

"CLEoPATRA would be at a great distance from the principal observatory, either Roman or a telescope on Earth," Barry said. "The parallax signal should then permit us to calculate quite precise masses for these objects, thereby increasing scientific return."

Stela Ishitani Silva, a research assistant at Goddard and Ph.D. student at the Catholic University of America in Washington, said understanding these free-floating planets will help fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge of how planets form.

"We want to find multiple free-floating planets and try to obtain information about their masses, so we can understand what is common or not common at all," Ishitani Silva said. "Obtaining the mass is important to understanding their planetary development."

In order to efficiently find these planets, CLEoPATRA, which completed a Mission Planning Laboratory study at Wallops Flight Facility in early August, will use artificial intelligence. Dr. Greg Olmschenk, a postdoctoral researcher working with Barry, has developed an AI called RApid Machine learnEd Triage (RAMjET) for the mission.

"I work with certain kinds of artificial intelligence called neural networks," Olmschenk said. "It's a type of artificial intelligence that will learn through examples. So, you give it a bunch of examples of the thing you want to find, and the thing you want it to filter out, and then it will learn how to recognize patterns in that data to try to find the things that you want to keep and the things you want to throw away."

Eventually, the AI learns what it needs to identify and will only send back important information. In filtering this information, RAMjET will help CLEoPATRA overcome an extremely limited data transmission rate. CLEoPATRA will have to watch millions of stars every hour or so, and there's no way to send all that data to Earth. Therefore, the spacecraft will have to analyze the data on-board and send back only the measurements for sources it detects to be microlensing events.

"CLEoPATRA will permit us to estimate many high-precision masses for new planets detected by Roman and PRIME," Barry said. "And it may allow us to capture or estimate the actual mass of a free-floating planet for the first time - never been done before. So cool, and so exciting. Really, it's a new golden age for astronomy right now, and I'm just very excited about it."

Video: Microlensing a Rogue Planet

Related Links
Exoplanets at NASA
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth

Thanks for being there;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5+ Billed Monthly

paypal only
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal

First planet to orbit 3 Stars discovered
Las Vegas NV (SPX) Oct 05, 2021
In a distant star system - a mere 1,300 light years away from Earth - UNLV researchers and colleagues may have identified the first known planet to orbit three stars. Unlike our solar system, which consists of a solitary star, it is believed that half of all star systems, like GW Ori where astronomers observed the novel phenomenon, consist of two or more stars that are gravitationally bound to each other. But no planet orbiting three stars - a circumptriple orbit - has ever been discovered. ... read more

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Russian actress, director enter space station to film movie

Russian crew blast off to film first movie in space

Russian crew arrives at space station to film first movie in orbit

To boldly go: Star Trek's Shatner spacebound with Blue Origin

NASA readies for future Artemis Moon Missions with rocket engine test series

Aerojet Rocketdyne completes Space Launch System rocket engine test series

Endurosat and Exolaunch announce launch agreements for Spacex Falcon 9 Rideshare Missions

Arianespace to launch GSAT-24 satellite for NSIL with Ariane 5

Using dunes to interpret wind on Mars

HiRISE spots Perseverance in South Seitah

NASA plans careful restart for Mars helicopter after quiet period

NASA selects crew for simulated trip to a Mars Moon

Building a home in the sky

China opens Shenzhou-12 return capsule at ceremony

China's cargo craft docks with space station core module

China brings astronauts back, advances closer to "space station era"

Spire Global and SpaceChain announce new partnership

Trading space: ESA bolsters European business

Space technology rocketing upwards, reports IDTechEx

GomSpace signs a contract with SpaceAble to enhance the sustainability of Low Earth Orbit

Urban mining for metals flashes forward

New model simplifies orbital radar trade-off studies for environmental monitoring

In Siberia, a copper mine hopes to become a global energy pivot

eFootball fiasco symptom of growing rush to bring out games

Planets gone rogue could sustain life

Investigating the potential for life around the galaxy's smallest stars

First planet to orbit 3 Stars discovered

'Planet confusion' could slow Earth-like exoplanet exploration

SwRI scientists confirm decrease in Pluto's atmospheric density

Hubble shows winds in Jupiter's Great Red Spot are speeding up

Come on in, the water is superionic

Mushballs stash away missing ammonia at Uranus and Neptune

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.