Hidden Stars May Impact Search for Earth-like Planets
Researchers have found that hidden stars may make planets appear smaller than they actually are, complicating the search for Earth-like planets. In the search for planets similar to our own, an important point of comparison is the planet’s density. A low density tells scientists a planet is more likely to be gaseous like Jupiter, and a high density is associated with rocky planets like Earth. But the new study, to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Astronomical Journal, suggests that some planets are less dense than previously thought because of a second, hidden star in their systems. As telescopes stare at particular patches of sky, they cannot always differentiate between one star and two.