Home > Astronomy, Astrophysics, General Astronomy, Stars > Astronomer Studies Far-Off Worlds Through ‘Characterization By Proxy’

Astronomer Studies Far-Off Worlds Through ‘Characterization By Proxy’


A University of Washington astronomer is using Earth’s interstellar neighbors to learn the nature of certain stars too far away to be directly measured or observed, and the planets they may host.

“Characterization by proxy” is the technique used by Sarah Ballard, a post-doctoral researcher at the UW, to infer the properties of small, relatively cool stars too distant for measurement, by comparing them to closer stars that now can be directly observed.

Our understanding of the size and temperature of planets depends crucially on the size and temperature of the stars they orbit. Astronomers already have a robust way to discern the physical properties of solar-type stars — those like the sun — by measuring the light they emit at different wavelengths and matching that to synthetically created spectra.

“The challenge is that small stars are incredibly difficult to characterize,” Ballard said. Those theoretical methods don’t work well for what are called M-dwarf stars, lower-mass stars about half the size of the sun and smaller — which is too bad, because such stars make up about three-quarters of the universe.

Full Story: http://www.washington.edu/news/2013/04/25/astronomer-studies-far-off-worlds-through-characterization-by-proxy/

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