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First visible light image of extrasolar planet

i just got a ring about this earlier, and had to share it with you guys. It has been confirmed that Hubble has taken the first photograph - a visible-light spectrum photograph - of a planet orbiting another star. [source]

The star is Fomalhaut, a white star 25 light years away, about twice the size of the Sun. It is a young star, 200-300 million years old (the Sun is 4.5 billion years old), and it will be a very short-lived star with an estimated lifespan of 1 billion years - but it is one of the brightest stars in the southern sky.

It is surrounded by a huge dust cloud over 120 AU wide, with a big, clear-cut hole in the middle. Because the system is so young, that cloud is probably planetary proto-matter, and the big hole is caused by the planet (which is why they looked there in the first place).

The planet itself is called Fomalhaut b, and is 15-1000 times the mass of Earth, orbiting Fomalhaut in a highly elliptical orbit.

For the curious, the chance of life on Fomalhaut b is almost none, partly because of the youth of the planet, partly because of the dust in the system (which would mean the surface of Fomalhaut b is under constant bombardment) and partly because of the extremely eccentric orbit. Furthermore, the chance of life on other planets - if they exist - is also slim, for similar reasons.
Just to add to this;
Here's some more info and a nice piccy

When it rains, it pours. ^_^;

While Hubble was busy getting the first visible light image of Fomalhaut b, Keck was busy getting optical (but not visible light) images of... not 1... not 2... but three planets orbiting HR 8799!

Yup, you read that right. Hubble got the first visible light shot of an extra-solar planet. Keck didn't get a visible light image... but managed to image the first optical (IR) shot of a multiple planet system.

HR 8799 is a very young (60 million years old) variable white star 129 light years away. It's only a little bigger than our star, but it is about 4-5 times brighter (both our star and HR 8799 are variable stars).

The three planets - HR 8799 b, c and d - are all quite large (in fact! there may be a porblem! ^_^). c and d are both about 7-13 times Jupiter's mass, and b is 7-11 times. Their orbital periods range from 100 years to 500. Here's the thing, though. b, c and d are all around 2-2.5 times the orbital periods of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune respectively... but, since the star is so much brighter than ours, they will receive just about the same amount of radiation. In other words, the climate on these planets may be similar to the climates on Saturn, Uranus and Neptune (which, by itself, is not really as cool as the implication that any moons they have would also have the same climates - so if we can build a colony on one of Saturn's moons, we could, theoretically, build a colony on HR 8799 b's moons).

Now... i mentioned a "porblem".

Well, here it is. The upper limit for a planet is 13 Jupiter masses. Both c and d may be over that. If they are, then this won't be a multiple extra-solar planet observation. Zing!

So we're not sure yet that this is the first multi-planet system observed optically. It probably is, because both c and d would have to be at the upper end of the estimates to be brown dwarfs.
That's very interesting and all, but the best shot mankind has at discovering extraterrestrial stuff is to build a big spaceship that can travel near light-speed. Earth's going to get destroyed in some thousand years anyways.
I am totally fascinated by the sightings. Missed this posting in November. Thanks for sharing this with us Indi as well as explaining what it is about. Great stuff!

Xrave wrote:
Earth's going to get destroyed in some thousand years anyways.

Xrave, can you back this up with some solid evidence? Thanks for resuscitating the thread.

By the way, tonight is going to be the fullest of full moons! So hope you will be close to a clear sky or planetarium. Probably going to make for some magnificent photos. Smile
The blogosphere is abuzz with big news, but unfortunately most of it is quite distorted.

We have managed to image, using visible light, yet another extrasolar planet. This extrasolar planet is around a Sol-like star, which is also not news. What is news is that we managed to do this from the ground. That's right! Not the Hubble, but from ground-based, optical observation, we have spotted an extrasolar planet around a Sol-like star in visible light.

That's actually pretty awesome, when you think about it. It's one thing to detect extrasolar planets via gravitational wobble, and it's another to image them from space... but now we are a species that, while sitting on our home planet, can find other planets around stars similar to our own. 21st century astronomy is truly incredible.

Here's the press release from Gemini Observatory, and here is the image itself:
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