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Old 11-20-2008, 05:07 PM   #1
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Default First Photos of Planets Around Other Stars

An article today in space.com:

"Astronomers have taken what they say are the first-ever direct images of planets outside of our solar system, including a visible-light snapshot of a single-planet system and an infrared picture of a multiple-planet system.

Earth-like worlds might also exist in the three-planet system, but if so they are too dim to photograph. The other newfound planet orbits a star called Fomalhaut, which is visible without the aid of a telescope. It is the 18th brightest star in the sky.

The massive worlds, each much heftier than Jupiter (at least for the three-planet system), could change how astronomers define the term "planet," one planet-hunter said.

Breakthrough technology

Until now, scientists have inferred the presence of planets mainly by detecting an unseen world's gravitational tug on its host star or waiting for the planet to transit in front of its star and then detecting a dip in the star's light. While these methods have helped to identify more than 300 extrasolar planets to date, astronomers have struggled to actually directly image and see such inferred planets.

The four photographed exoplanets are discussed in two research papers published online today by the journal Science.

"Every extrasolar planet detected so far has been a wobble on a graph. These are the first pictures of an entire system," said Bruce Macintosh, an astrophysicist from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, and part of the team that photographed the multi-planet system in infrared light. "We've been trying to image planets for eight years with no luck and now we have pictures of three planets at once."

Astronomers have claimed previously to have directly imaged a planet, with at least two such objects, though not everybody agreed the objects were planets. Instead, they may be dim, failed stars known as brown dwarfs."

The full article is at:
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Old 11-21-2008, 05:48 PM   #2
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Default Re: First Photos of Planets Around Other Stars

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