A new technique of detecting dust swirls will allow astronomers to find more planets and smaller planets around distant stars.

The conventional method of planet detection involves searching for wobbling stars, which indicate the presence of orbiting objects. Only huge Jupiter-like bodies and tight orbits can have such a gravitational impact, however.

The new method involves searching for patterns of dust surrounding stars. It’s sensitive enough to find planets as small as Earth as well as planets in orbits that make the conventional technique virtually useless.