New method for detecting extrasolar planets using gravitational waves

A group of researchers confirms that a new method for detecting extrasolar planets using gravitational waves could be very useful indeed. Specifically, this method would apply to the identification of those exoplanets that orbit binary systems of white dwarfs, both in the Milky Way and in the nearby Magellanic Clouds.

The method is based on the observations of gravitational waves, something that would allow the LISA observatory, a space observatory consisting of three satellites whose mission should be launched in 2034, to detect planets with at least 50 land masses. To date, the techniques most used to identify extrasolar planets are those related to the planet’s transit system in front of their own star from our point of view and that which is based on the interception of the gravitational influence that the planet can have on its own star.

In the new article, which appeared in Nature Astronomy , Nicholas Tamanini, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam, and Camilla Danielski, a researcher at the French Commission for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy (CEA) in Saclay, state that the inherent limitations of these methods can be overcome by resorting to gravitational wave analysis.

As the same Tamanini explains, the LISA observatory will measure, after the launch of the mission, the gravitational waves of many thousands of white dwarf binary systems. However, if in the vicinity of these latter orbits a fairly large planet, the same gravitational waves will appear different and this change can be analyzed to acquire information on the planet, as well as its own presence.