NASA introduced a new device for detecting new exoplanets – a telescope for broadband infrared imaging (WFIRST). It can be used to identify small distant planets and other cosmic bodies – for example, brown dwarfs and black holes.
WFIRST will use two methods to identify objects – the transit method and microlensing. Previously, most planets were discovered during transit, when they pass in front of a star, temporarily blocking its light. But the new telescope will first of all follow the opposite effect – small jumps in radiation caused by microlensing. They are less common because they are based on the random alignment of two widely spaced and unrelated stars drifting in space.
“Microlensing signals from small planets are rare and short-lived, but they are stronger than signals from other methods”, said David Bennett, who leads the gravitational microlensing group at NASA’s Space Flight Center.
The researchers explained that the process of finding the planets is like guessing the picture, “when you have only half of it.” “In order to fully understand how planetary systems are formed, we need to find planets of all masses at all distances we know. No technique can do this, but the new WFIRST survey combined with the results of Kepler and TESS will show a much larger picture, ”they said.