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First Pictures Taken Of Extrasolar Planets
November 13, 2008 2:02 PM   Subscribe


 
If I were a hobbit, I would find this image a tad unsettling.
posted by smrtsch at 2:05 PM on November 13, 2008 [10 favorites]


Very cool...

Which one is yours?
posted by Pantengliopoli at 2:06 PM on November 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


I've been going back to stare at this image a few times this afternoon. Lovely.

But then I wonder: how long till someone turns this into: Extrasolar Planet: Goatse version.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:08 PM on November 13, 2008


pictures! more from ars :P
posted by kliuless at 2:08 PM on November 13, 2008


Great, now it's only a matter of time til some entrepreneur starts selling real estate there.

Oh and eponysomething-or-other.
posted by JaredSeth at 2:10 PM on November 13, 2008


smrtsch wins the internet.
posted by matthewstopheles at 2:12 PM on November 13, 2008


Wow.
posted by delmoi at 2:12 PM on November 13, 2008


I just love saying "Fomalhaut!"

Fomalhaut, Fomalhaut, Fomalhaut.
posted by not_on_display at 2:13 PM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


This image freaks me out as much as the one of Fomalhaut Fomalhaut, Fomalhaut, but then I'm comforted to know that there are also massive soap bubbles out there as well.

Thanks for the post!
posted by WolfDaddy at 2:18 PM on November 13, 2008


(Much) more at Bad Astronomy.
posted by jammer at 2:20 PM on November 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthuga Fomalhaut n'gha'ghaa naf'l thagn. Iä! Cthuga!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:24 PM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


How soon before Richard Branson starts selling advance reservation tickets to fly there?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:25 PM on November 13, 2008


Awesome! I am tickled at how after most of century when astronomy knew of nine planets total, now upwards of 95% of all known planets are outside our solar system.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:27 PM on November 13, 2008


Originals in the journal Science: one planet, multiple planets, editorial. Paywall involved.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 2:32 PM on November 13, 2008


The papers associated with these can be viewed free here (HR 8799) and here (Fomalhaut).

These planets are both "Hot Jupiters", young planets much more massive than Jupiter (7-10 Jupiter masses in HR8799, 3 Jupiter masses in Fomalhaut) which are still self-luminous. Interestingly, both of these sets of planets are around A-type stars, which only recently have been surveyed for large planets. (G-type stars, like our sun, have come up empty in imaging surveys.)

What I find particularly interesting is that Fomalhaut b was found by visible/NIR-wavelength coronagraphy from space. Most of the telescopes proposed to find Earth-like planets about other stars use some variant of visible coronagraphy (of which there are many) from space. It bodes well for potential planetary science with planet-finding telescopes that they can image dim objects that well--Fomalhaut b is approximately 1 billion times fainter than its star, and it's estimated that being able to find objects 10 billion times fainter than their star will get you Earth-like planets (at distances from the star where you might find liquid water). To be fair, Fomalhaut is at a 1500 milliarcsecond angular separation from its parent star; current space-based designs aim to image objects on the order of 100 milliarcseconds. Getting in close and seeing dim objects there is the challenge.
posted by Upton O'Good at 2:56 PM on November 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


I believe that I am the first on the Internet to say Dibs.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 2:56 PM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


The top one looks like a really nice place, but the other ones look kind of dangerous. I say we use the good one as a staging ground to declare interstellar war on the rest.

Because those fuckers can probably see us too.


Does anyone else think Fomalhaut dust disk looks kind of like wood grain?
posted by quin at 3:05 PM on November 13, 2008


Awesome! I am tickled at how after most of century when astronomy knew of nine planets total

And they were wrong about one of those!
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:09 PM on November 13, 2008


And they were wrong about one of those!

So some would say.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:18 PM on November 13, 2008


Hurray for science, hurray for rationality, hurray for the triumph of humanity over ignorance. Yay.
posted by Divine_Wino at 3:26 PM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Modern astronomy makes me both delighted, and a little sad. Delighted, because it's just one fantastic discovery after the next. Sad, because the possibility for a life-bearing planet in the local stellar neighborhood is looking less and less.

Not that we could get there of course, but it's looking more and more like the simplest explanation for the Fermi Paradox is the most reasonable one.
posted by happyroach at 4:08 PM on November 13, 2008


It's not jason's. It's ours.
posted by The Whelk at 4:45 PM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Intellectually, this is very cool, but I'm really holding out for the extrasolar Blue Marble pic.
posted by niles at 5:00 PM on November 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Not that I dispute it or am not excited by this, but that is not a very compelling image.
posted by DU at 5:14 PM on November 13, 2008


Sad, because the possibility for a life-bearing planet in the local stellar neighborhood is looking less and less.

That's too pessimistic. We don't know enough yet; our instruments are fairly crude.

From jammer's link above:
One thing that makes these particular planets a bit easier to find than usual is that they are young; HR 8799 and its children are only about 60 million years old. That means the planets are still glowing from the leftover heat of their formation, and that adds to their brightness. Eventually (in millions of years), as they cool, they will glow only by reflected light from the star, and be far harder to see. Fomalhaut b, in the Hubble image, is much older (200 million years), and glows only by reflected light from Fomalhaut. If it were much smaller or dimmer (or closer to the blinding light of the star), we wouldn’t have been able to see it at all.
I suspect that our current technology doesn't allow us to find an Earth-like planet, if such a planet exists in our vicinity. But the instruments will improve and some day, maybe a decade or so in the future, we'll have that Blue Marble that niles is holding out for.
posted by jason's_planet at 5:54 PM on November 13, 2008


Does anyone else think Fomalhaut dust disk looks kind of like wood grain?

It's light from the blocked out star.

Sad, because the possibility for a life-bearing planet in the local stellar neighborhood is looking less and less.

Why? The reasons we see these giant planets is because they are the ones who create enough gravitational effect on their parent planets to be noticeable. There's no reason to think smaller planets aren't out there as well.
posted by delmoi at 6:35 PM on November 13, 2008


Damn, that's cool. Thanks.
posted by rtha at 6:59 PM on November 13, 2008


These types of discoveries make me both extremely excited, but also secretly depressed.


Excited because photos of extrasolar planets!
Depressed because I will never get to go there...
posted by agress at 7:04 PM on November 13, 2008


JaredSeth, You're not too far off the mark: the Doritos Broadcast Project....
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 7:38 PM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


But then I wonder: how long till someone turns this into: Extrasolar Planet: Goatse version.

My God… it's full of stars!
posted by mazola at 7:59 PM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


OMGWTFBBQ! Not only did they get pictures of planets, they managed to get a shot of the Enterprise zooming by!
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 9:38 PM on November 13, 2008


Having grown up reading my father's collection of 50's sci-fi, I find this so incredibly thrilling. I want to go to space. I do. I want to colonize the moon, and see intergalactic travel in my lifetime. I'm even willing to give up my quest for personal rocket packs if we could just get manned space exploration going.
posted by dejah420 at 2:42 PM on November 14, 2008


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