Sunday, October 5, 2008

Possible First Picture of an Extrasolar Planet!

What you are looking at in the upper left hand corner of the image is quite possibly the first photo of an extrasolar planet. The young hot planet is about eight times the mass of Jupiter, orbiting about 330 A.U.s from the very young (approximately 5 million years old) Sun-like central star 1RXS J160929.1-210524 (located 500 light-years from the Earth). 330 A.U.s is 11 times the distance of Neptune's orbit around our Sun (1 A.U. is the distance of the Earth from the Sun).

Because the young planet is orbiting so far away, it's presence is a challenge to planetary formation theories. This may indicate that there may be more than one means of planetary formation, and that, thus, there will be an even greater variety of solar systems than first thought (which may also mean a greater variety of worlds for life to evolve on).

Next on the agenda is to see if the possible planet is actually gravitationally tied to the star. This will take two years to determine.

The University of Toronto astronomers (David Lafrenière, Ray Jayawardhana, Marten H. van Kerkwijk) who discovered this planetary object using the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawai‘i, viewed the extrasolar system in the near-infrared range using adaptive optics technology to reduce distortions from air turbulence.

The star is a very young K7 type star, 85% the mass of our Sun. Being young and very hot, it is also very large. The planet is also very hot, about 11.25 times hotter (Jupiter is about -110ºC, while this planet is at around 1500 ºC).

Reference:

"First Picture of Likely Planet around Sun-like Star." Gemni Observatory. 15 Sept. 2008. Web. 5 Oct. 2008. <http://www.gemini.edu/node/11126>.

2 comments :

Dorlana said...

Hi Mr. David,
I wanted to stop by and wish a very Happy Halloween:)

Mr. David Merchant said...

Many thanks, hope you and yours had a Happy Halloween as well. We spent it teaching and grading, but we both dressed up: I came as a Chaucerian friar, and Jinko wore her elegant green velvet qipao. Quite the odd couple!