Friday, November 21, 2008

Another Image of an Exoplanet


Click photo to enlarge. Credit: NASA, ESA, P. Kalas, J. Graham, E. Chiang, E. Kite (University of California, Berkeley), M. Clampin (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), M. Fitzgerald (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), and K. Stapelfeldt and J. Krist (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Yet another photo of an exoplanet - this one by the Hubble Space Telescope of a planet circling Fomalhaut 25 light years from Earth in the Piscis Australis constellation.. This is the first visible light photo (the previous photos of planets circling HR 8799 used infrared). The planet, Fomalhaut b, is estimated to less than three times Jupiter's mass and orbiting 10.7 billion miles (roughly 115 AUs) out from Fomalhaut; by comparison Pluto is 39.5 AUs from our Sun. A large dust ring surrounds Fomalhaut, and astronomers theorized that since the ring was offset from the star, with a sharp inner edge - evidence that pointed to a planet circling the star gravitationally affecting the ring. Fomalhaut b is a billion times dimmer than the star is orbits, so the work of finding the planet was demanding, but after several years of determined work, the team of astronomers met with success - the first visible light photo of an exoplanet. The hunt for exoplanets is moving in exciting directions.

Reference:

"Hubble Directly Observes A Planet Orbiting Another Star." Science News. ScienceDaily. 13 Nov. 2008. Web. 21 Nov. 2008. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081113151456.htm>.

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