Precision Instrument to See Distant Stars
A new the extreme-precision instrument will enable astronomers to see stars beyond our
solar system and the Earth-sized planets that may surround them. The device called
radial velocity spectrometer was developed by Christian Schwab, an
astrophysicist at Macquarie University's Department of Physics and Astronomy.
What makes it unique is its accuracy and ability to detect light no human eye
could ever see. It is built to detect exoplanets – planets outside our solar
system. The device is collecting starlight on the 3.5 meter WIYN telescope at
Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. It is now searching the skies to
discover Earth-mass exoplanets, not by trying to see them, but by measuring the
subtle effect these planets have on their parent stars. The spectrometer
measures the way the star’s spectral lines are displaced due to the Doppler
Effect – in other words, how light from the star is shifted towards the red or
blue end of the spectrum.