We should always be on the lookout for new ways of finding exoplanets. Right now we’re limited by our methods to stars within the neighborhood of the Sun (in galactic terms), for both radial velocity and transit detections are possible only around brighter, closer stars. The exception here is gravitational microlensing, capable of probing deep into the galaxy, but here the problem is one of numbers. We simply don’t make enough detections this way to build up the kind of statistical sample that the Kepler mission has provided in terms of transiting planets.
So how significant is this kind of selection bias, which thus far has been forced upon us? Without knowing the answer, we would do well to explore ideas like those put forward by Nicola Tamanini (AEI Potsdam) and colleague Camilla Danielski (CEA/Saclay, Paris). The two scientists are looking at the possibilities of gravitational wave astronomy, looking toward the launch, in the 2030s, of LISA, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna.
Image: Artistic representation of gravitational waves produced by a compact binary white dwarf system with a jovian mass planetary companion. Credit: © Simonluca Definis.
This is rarified air indeed, and the kind of target in play is likewise ...