Skip to comments.First photo of planet around alien star
Posted on 09/15/2008 4:41:30 AM PDT by LibWhacker
Astronomers believe they have taken the first amazing photo of a planet around another star like the Sun. The alien world shows up as a tiny orange disk in the image captured by Canadian scientists with a giant telescope in Hawaii.
Previous pictures of so-called extrasolar planets orbiting other stars have been painted by artists.
The new world was spotted 500 light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Scorpius, the scorpion. Astronomers were puzzled by its distance from its parent star which is 330 times further than we are from the sun.
But they carried out detective work with other techniques to confirm that the planet and the star lie at roughly the same distance from us and so are probably connected.
Before now, the only planet-like bodies imaged outside the solar system have been floating freely or been circling brown dwarfs, which are thought to be stars that failed to ignite.
Special equipment fitted to the Gemini North Telescope, called adaptive optics, was used to remove distortions caused by turbulence in the atmosphere that would have hidden the planet from view.
That gave the astronomers a clear image of a world which would otherwise have been invisible because of the star's twinkling. It is thought to be about eight times the mass, or size, of Jupiter, biggest planet in our own solar system.
The star has the catchy name of 1RXS J160929.1-210524 and lies in a cluster of relatively young stars called the Upper Scorpius association.
"This is the first time we have directly seen a planetary mass object in a likely orbit around a star like our Sun," said David Lafrenicre, lead author of a paper submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Colleague Ray Jayawardhana said: "This discovery is yet another reminder of the truly remarkable diversity of worlds out there."
More than 200 extrasolar planets have been found since the first was detected in the early 1990s. Last year one was discovered in a star's so-called habitable region, or Goldilocks zone, raising the possibility that it could be home to life.
Planet Red X?
“Scientists report they can also see a sign reading “Unverse for Obama” on the planet’s surface.
the truly remarkable diversity of worlds out thereLike the Canadians. A truly diverse group.
Pretty neat picture. More like a failed binary star, however. That “planet” is very large and very far from the primary star.
Planet Biden ?
Eight times the mass of Jupiter = a brown dwarf?
Is this the home planet of Dennis Kucinich? Or is his planet further away?
Thanks for the story!
Hmmm, that’s weird. It shows up okay in my browser. Guess they don’t like us deeplinking... Check out the article and click on that picture for the large version (the one I tried to post).
However, upon closer examination, I think Madison Avenue was already there. ;D
330 AU and a browndwarf .... that's almost a binary start system but still. Kind of neat. Probably has dueterium fusion going on at the heart of the planet though.
Captain Kirk got laid there...
What blows me away is its distance. Never expected our first photo of a planet orbiting another star would be of one so far away! Thought it would be of one of our "next door" neighbors.
To your knowledge, is this the first photo that resolves an alien star's disk? If so, I had no idea they could do that either! (Perhaps a little skepticism is in order until this claim is confirmed?)
Not sure. Very possibly. Another example of military tech trickling up to benefit science!
Why wouldn’t the Hubble pick this up better?
I believe Hubble’s broken right now, waiting for a shuttle mission to fix it.
This is good news for Hollywood elites and other liberals looking for someplace to go, after the elections.
If the mass of the star is the same as the sun’s, the orbital period would be about 6,000 years, so it would take a long time to see any change in the relative orientation of the two bodies, about sixteen years for one degree of orbital motion.
What impresses me is the dynamic range of the sensor. If the smaller body has about the same density and reflectivity as Jupiter, the brightness of the two objects differs by about fourteen orders of magnitude (100000000000000x). For comparison, the dimmest naked eye stars differ in brightness from the sun by about thirteen orders of magnitude. This is like photographing a dim star next to the sun.
The spot size of the star is obviously limited by diffraction, the outter edges of the image demarcating the point were the diffraction pattern drops into the noise. It’s an amazing picture.
I believe the instrument used was the Keck telescope. Not sure anymore, though.
Mass, or size? I don't think they really want to equate mass and size.
Where didn't Captain Kirk get laid?
Astronomers (and astrologers) have been looking "out there" for centuries and more - and we've JUST NOW found what we hope is another planet???
There are so many stars it defies any attempt to count them and we can't find a single planet outside our solar system (until now - if this is really a planet)??? Dang, just dang.
We can split atoms but can't find a planet. No offense to those in the field but, man, I'm glad I didn't go into astronomy - sounds depressingly slow.
Haha! That's funny, I don't care who you are!
Finding or photographing, is a veeeeeeeeery, veeeeeeeery difficult problem given the immense distances and feeble light reflected in our direction by these planets.
It's going to get real exciting in coming years as there are now enormous telescopes on the drawing board that'll actually allow us to see surface details on earth-sized planets out to several hundred light years.
So if you're glad you didn't go into astronomy before now, but are looking for an exciting career change, now would be the time to make the switch!
It's not going to be slow much longer. In fact, it's picking up very nicely as we speak. :-)
Do you really want an answer to that?!!