Tag: "exoplanets"

Images of exoplanets around Sun-like stars!

You don't get many days like this. The first image of an exoplanet around a Sun-like star has been released. Previously we had only visually detected a 5 mass Jupiter exoplanet around a brown dwarf star. Brown dwarf stars are too small to undergo any nuclear fusion, and as such they just dimly glow from their original formation. This makes planets far easier to detect around them as they put out millions of times less light, which normally hides any planets. This however is a proper star.

Yup that tiny little dot is a planet estimated to be around the same mass as Jupiter.

The planet Fomalhaut b orbits Fomalhaut (aka Alpha Piscis Austrini) once every 872 years, it is pretty far out. The star itself is not easily visible from the UK, it hugs the horizon even at this time of year when its at its highest point.

In this image the star is blocked out (artificially eclipsed if you will), and the remaining starlight is then subtracted from the image by using a template of another star. The dust ring around it is actually real, as is the planet, the lines radiating from the central star are artifacts.

And that's not all, we've also got the first image of multiple planets orbiting the star HR 8799, this time taken in infrared, which reduces the contrast differences between the star and the planet. Again the light from the star had to be blocked out. This system is only about 60 million years old which worked in our favour for detecting these planets as they're still warm from their original formation and as such release much more infrared light than normal.