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Exoplanet Hunters Finally Catch One in a Star’s Debris Disk!

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posted on Jun, 11 2010 @ 10:46 AM

A giant planet lurks in the dust and debris surrounding a young, nearby star — and astronomers have finally seen it in action.

The discovery, announced June 10 in Science, proves that giant planets can form quickly around young stars and suggests that dust disks are signposts for stars hosting giant planets.

Image: ESO/A.-M. Lagrange. This image shows the dust disk around the star (blue light at edges), and the observed position of beta Pictoris b in 2003 and autumn 2009. The light from the star has been blocked out to make the planet visible.

Using the Very Large Telescope in Chile, astronomers took infrared images of the planet in two different positions around its star in 2003 and late 2009. “It’s so exciting that we can see it,” said astronomer Paul Kalas of the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the new work. “We’ve been looking a long time.”

Beta Pictoris, a star almost twice the mass of the sun and located 63 light-years away, has been a celebrity among planet hunters since the 1984 discovery of a wide halo of dust and rocky debris that could eventually coalesce into planets. Later observations showed that the disk was oddly warped, and that it had a big hole near the center.

Because Beta Pictoris is such a young star — about 10 million years old, or two thousandths the age of the solar system — studying its planetary system can help astronomers decide between competing models of planet formation. For instance, earlier theoretical work showed that debris disks around stars broke up fairly quickly, within a few million years. Some theorists worried that massive planets wouldn’t be able to form fast enough, but the planet around Beta Pictoris is proof that they can

The planet weighs in between six and 12 times the mass of Jupiter, similar to the models’ predictions. It orbits its star at about the orbit of Saturn, between eight and 13 times the distance from the Earth to the sun, making it the closest planet to a star ever imaged. It also means the planet makes a complete circuit around its star every 17 to 30 Earth years, well within human lifetimes.

The next step is to observe the planet in more wavelengths to get an idea of what its atmosphere is made of, Lagrange said. And with new instruments like the Gemini Planet Imager coming online, the next few years should see even more direct images of extrasolar planets.


It is getting to the point were we are getting TOO much info coming in about Space. Can't keep up with it all! Oh well, keep it coming baby...

Just amazes me that we can know so much about something in Space without being there or having samples from there etc. It seems like the Space Scientist don't make too many corrections.

Well, mark this one as another great Space Study find. Way to go!>

posted on Jun, 11 2010 @ 11:24 AM
You can never have too much information about space. this is really cool.

I wonder what something like that would look like from a planet like ours, if one were orbiting it. i imagine it to look like the night skys on some video games like halo 3 and WoW.

would love to see an image like that in real life.

[edit on 11-6-2010 by MR BOB]

posted on Jun, 11 2010 @ 12:25 PM
reply to post by MR BOB

This stuff is starting to look like stuff out of a old game-STAR CRAFT (soon to be S.C.2 in July).

Anyway, take a look at some of the crome (I think it is called)-the still shots of space and the space travel in the single player version. Really good stuff.

Star Craft Art/Screen Still

posted on Jun, 11 2010 @ 03:35 PM
Man, I figured the Space lovers would be all over this one.

Must be a slow day in Space....

I wish I had a huge telescope....

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