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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Extrasolar Planets Exist, photographed for the 1st time


A little more of the universe has been pried out of the shadows. Two groups of astronomers have taken the first pictures of what they say — and other astronomers agree — are most likely planets going around other stars. The achievement, the result of years of effort on improved observational techniques and better data analysis, presages more such discoveries, the experts said, and will open the door to new investigations and discoveries of what planets are and how they came to be formed. “It’s the tip of the iceberg,” said Christian Marois of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Victoria, British Columbia. “Now that we know they are there, there is going to be an explosion.” Dr. Marois is the leader of a team that recorded three planets circling a star known as HR 8799 that is 130 light-years away in the constellation Pegasus. The other team, led by Paul Kalas of the University of California, Berkeley, found a planet orbiting the star Fomalhaut, only 25 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Piscis Austrinus. In an interview by e-mail, Dr. Kalas said that when he finally confirmed his discovery last May, “I nearly had a heart attack.” In scratchy telescope pictures released Thursday in Science Express, the online version of the journal Science, the planets appear as fuzzy dots that move slightly around their star from exposure to exposure. Astronomers who have seen the new images agreed that these looked like the real thing. “I think Kepler himself would recognize these as planets orbiting a star following his laws of orbital motion,” Mark S. Marley of the Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

, wrote in an e-mail message elaborating on HR 8799. More than 300 so-called extrasolar planets have been found circling distant stars, making their discovery the hottest and fastest-growing field in astronomy. But the observations have been made mostly indirectly, by dips in starlight as planets cross in front of their home star or by wobbles they induce going by it.

2 comments:

jenalie_mulder_2177 said...

My dad has always taught me that the scientists weren't particularly right, nor were they wrong. I had always known that other planets existed. It's a no brainer to me...please contact me at jenaliestanson@hotmail.com!

Mr.Anonymous said...

that's cool, what kind of star is that, a red dwarf?