11 February 2021, The Tablet

Stellar candidates

Across the Universe

Stellar candidates

ASTRONOMERS love acronyms. An apt one for our work at the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope is Eden: the Exoearth Discovery and Exploration Network.

Say a star is seen to drop in brightness for a few hours, then after many months it dips again by the same amount. If this dip repeats, again and again, after the same time interval, this dip might, maybe, be the shadow of a planet orbiting that star.

A number of space-based telescopes (such as Kepler and now the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) have spotted thousands of such systems in this way. The Eden project concentrates on those possible planet systems that are relatively close to Earth: within 50 light years. The hope is that in the not too distant future we’ll have telescopes big enough to actually detect and study those planets. We might eventually even see if those planets are earth-like, with (ah, the ultimate goal!) hints that they might hold life.

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