VLTI Detects Exozodiacal Light Around Exoplanets
Artist’s impression of zodiacal light viewed from the surface of an exoplanet.
Credit: ESO/L. Calçada
If you’ve ever stood outside after twilight has passed, or a few hours before the sun rises at dawn, then chances are you’ve witnessed the phenomenon known as zodiacal light. This effect, which looks like a faint, diffuse white glow in the night sky, is what happens when sunlight is reflected off of tiny particles and appears to extend up from the vicinity of the Sun. This reflected light is not just observed from Earth but can be observed from everywhere in the Solar System.
Using the full power of the Very Large Telescopic Interferometer (VLTI), an international team of astronauts recently discovered that the exozodiacal light – i.e. zodiacal light around other star systems – close to the habitable zones around nine nearby stars that was far more extreme. The presence of such large amounts of dust in the inner regions around some stars may pose an obstacle to the direct imaging of Earth-like planets.
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