posted on Mar, 12 2013 @ 03:01 AM
This is one of the first success of the
with a direct image of HR
8799 planetary system, which is 128 light years away from Earth:
This image of the HR 8799 planets was taken with starlight optically suppressed and data processing conducted to remove residual starlight.
The star is at the center of the blackened circle in the image. The four spots indicated with the letters b through e are the planets. This is a
composite image using 30 wavelengths of light and was obtained over a period of 1.25 hours on June 14 and 15, 2012. Credit: Project 1640
This photo shows the Project 1640 instrument in the telescope dome of the 200-inch Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory, prior to being
installed for observations. Credit: Palomar Observatory/S. Kardel
Researchers have conducted a remote reconnaissance of a distant solar system with a new telescope imaging system that sifts through the blinding
light of stars. Using a suite of high-tech instrumentation and software called Project 1640, the scientists collected the first chemical fingerprints,
or spectra, of this system's four red exoplanets, which orbit a star 128 light years away from Earth. A detailed description of the planets—showing
how drastically different they are from the known worlds in the universe—was accepted Friday for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.
This research sounds very promising, as the spectroscopy signature tools of project 1640 will be now able to show the complete spectra of
This graph shows the spectra of all four planets orbiting HR 8799. The plot shows how bright each object is (y-axis) versus the wavelength
of light or color measured. Dips and peaks in these plots are due to the presence or absence of certain molecules (indicated at the top of the plot).
Credit: Project 1640
"Now, with Project 1640, we are beginning to turn this tool to the investigation of neighboring exoplanets to learn about the composition,
temperature, and other characteristics of their atmospheres." said Charles Beichman, executive director of the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at the
California Institute of Technology.
The results are "quite strange," Oppenheimer said. "These warm, red planets are unlike any other known object in our universe. All four planets
have different spectra, and all four are peculiar. The theorists have a lot of work to do now."
"The spectra of these four worlds clearly show that they are far too toxic and hot to sustain life as we know it," said co-author Ian Parry, a senior
lecturer at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge University. "But the really exciting thing is that one day, the techniques we've developed will give
us our first secure evidence of the existence of life on a planet outside our solar system." In addition to revealing unique planets, the research
debuts a new capability to observe and rapidly characterize exoplanetary systems in a routine manner, something that has eluded astronomers until now
because the light that stars emit is tens of millions to billions of times brighter than the light given off by planets. This makes directly imaging
and analyzing exoplanets extremely difficult: as Oppenheimer says, "It's like taking a single picture of the Empire State Building from an airplane
that reveals the height of the building as well as taking a picture of a bump on the sidewalk next to it that is as high as a couple of
During its three-year survey at Palomar, which started in June 2012, Project 1640 aims to survey 200 stars within about 150 light years of our solar
Maybe spectral signature of one of these planetary systems will be similar to that of the Earth? Fantastic news anyway, and a great step forward for
the exoplanet life hunting!
Read the whole article at: phys.org
edit on 12-3-2013 by
elevenaugust because: (no reason given)