The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

But Do They Obscure the View of Venus?

Big news today…we officially have the first images of planets orbiting other Sun-like stars!  It was only a matter of time, and we are now there.
Exhibit A is from the Hubbls Space Telescope.

081113-fomalhautb-021

The star is blocked out by a small bar (literally) called an occulting bar.  The star is so bright we need to block its light to see the dim planet nearby.  That little speck of light is the planet!  It may not look like much, but it has been imaged multiple times to confirm it really is a planet in orbit around the star.  The star itself is called Fomalhaut and is one of the brightest stars in the sky.

The next example orbits the star with a much more obscure name, HR8799.  The big news here is we can see THREE PLANETS!

081113-hr8799-02

Note thr three red dots in the image at the right.  This image was taken in the infrared.  Planets give off a lot more light in the infrared so they are easy to detect in an infrared image.  Even the closest of the three planets is about 3.8billion km from the Sun (close the distance of Uranus from the Sun.)  In other words, theere is plenty of room for more planets closer to this star…maybe small, rocky, planets like…well, let’s not get carried away yet!

Once we found the first extrasolar planet, the pace of discoveries rapidly increased.  Now that we have the first images, I hope we do as well at getting more!

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November 13, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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