Astronomers have found a clever new way to slice and dice the flickering light from a distant star in a way that reveals the strength of gravity at its surface. That is important because a star’s surface gravity is one of the key properties that astronomers use to calculate a star’s physical properties and assess its evolutionary state. The new technique can also be used to significantly improve estimates of the sizes of the hundreds of exoplanets that have been discovered in the last 20 years. Current estimates have uncertainties ranging from 50 percent to 200 percent. Using the improved figures for the surface gravity of the host stars calculated by the new method should cut these uncertainties at least in half.
Provided by Vanderbilt University