Wobbling Stars and Super Earths

In the black expanse,
a signal,
draws the eye.
Stars shudder,
caught in the
movements of giants –
unfolding with weight
and fire beneath
their shrouds of night.

A flash,

a hint of light dimmed,
an orbit traced –
the path
to other worlds.
Numbers etch the heavens,
scribing tales
in trembling light –
every murmur a revelation,
every shiver a promise
in this phantasm of planets
waiting to be known.

This poem is inspired by recent research, which has used wobbling stars to find new exoplanets.

The discovery of planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets, has greatly expanded our understanding of the universe. While earlier missions like Kepler have identified thousands of these distant worlds, determining their masses remains a significant challenge. Measuring a planet’s mass is crucial as it reveals much about its composition, atmosphere, and potential to support life. However, obtaining accurate mass measurements requires advanced techniques and sensitive instruments. One effective method is observing the ‘wobble’ of a star caused by the gravitational pull of an orbiting planet, which shifts the star’s light spectrum. This phenomenon, known as the radial velocity method, provides essential data for understanding these distant worlds.

New data from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the W.M. Keck Observatory, has been used to make significant strides in this area. This research, part of the TESS-Keck Survey (TKS), has produced the largest and most uniform mass catalogue of exoplanets to date. By analysing over 9,000 radial velocity measurements, the team determined the masses of 126 exoplanets and discovered 15 new ones. This comprehensive dataset allows scientists to estimate the densities and compositions of these planets, providing valuable insights into their nature. Notably, the study identified two particularly intriguing planets: TOI-1824 b, a superdense sub-Neptune, and TOI-1798 c, an extreme super-Earth, which is so close to its host star that it makes one orbit in less than 12 hours. These findings contribute to a deeper understanding of planetary diversity and evolution, highlighting the unique characteristics of our own solar system.

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