Extrasolar Planets On Film

November 14, 2008

From the NY Times:

“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.'”

The photos, taken by two ground-based telescopes in Hawaii and by the Hubble Space Telescope, are of planets from two star systems. One is Fomalhaut (I have NO idea how to pronounce that), which is only 25 light years from here. The other is HR 8799 (great name, that), which is 130 light years away.

Amazing.

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