Effect of “photobombing” in the study of exoplanets

When taking images of exoplanets, an effect similar to “photobombing” may occur.  This is the name of the situation, when shooting one person, another person gets in, distracting all the attention.

“Photobombing” of planets. Source: Рhys.org

“Photobombing” of exoplanets

“Photobombing” is usually called a situation when you are photographing your friends, and suddenly a bright object gets into the frame, distracting all the attention. For example, it could be a celebrity waving to someone. Scientists have found that the same thing can happen to exoplanets.

According to a new study conducted by NASA, photos of exoplanets obtained with the help of new-generation telescopes can be heavily “littered” with light from planets of the same system.

This phenomenon is closely related to the function of the point aperture and light diffraction, which depend on the distance to the source and the parameters of the telescope. The image of two nearby planets can be distorted so much that we will see them as one.

In the case when we are talking about planets located in the “habitable zone”, this may lead to the fact that an Earth-like object will not be noticed for a brighter reflection of the “exovenus”. And the spectral data will show that the planet is uninhabitable.

How to deal with the “photobombing” of exoplanets

In order to make sure that the problem really exists, scientists tried to simulate a situation where an extraterrestrial civilization looks at the Solar System from a distance of 30 light-years through a telescope similar to that proposed in the 2020 astrophysical survey. They came to the conclusion that at such distances Venus and Earth can really be seen as one planet.

Scientists have also suggested several ways to deal with “space photobombing”. One of them is to improve the methods of processing the data collected by the telescope in order to reduce the diffraction distortion. Another suggests observing systems for a long time and thus getting rid of the effect of “merging” planets.

According to Рhys.org

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