New tech at RIT may help find other planets

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A breakthrough in sensor technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology may contribute to finding other planets like ours.

A camera with a specific sensor is used to detect light or photons from distant planets.

Fifth year astrophysics student Justin Gallagher interprets the data captured by the camera.

“We have zero photons, pixels that exhibited one photon, pixels that might have had two photons captured,” Gallagher said.

“We’d like to know how those pixels behave, how efficient are those pixels, are there any errors with those pixels that might in fabrication you’d like to go back and redesign.”

Dr. Don Figer of RIT has worked closely with sensors for years.

“With this new grant we’re going to be able to characterize it in every conceivable way that’s relevant for a space mission that NASA wants to do.”

After measuring photons, the next step may be detecting certain gases like oxygen or methane.

“Those are biomarkers,” said Figer. “So now this becomes a life finder, so it’s not just a planet finder, it’s a life finder.”

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