Amazing, smallest yet alien planet photographed
Astronomers are perfecting the direct imaging of smaller and smaller planets.
Astronomers in South America have imaged an alien planet orbiting just 300 light years from Earth. Although other exoplanets have been imaged before, this is the smallest one yet.
The light of the parent star is blocked out and the planet is the bright blue dot to the lower left.
The planet is the smallest one yet imaged and is only about four or five times more massive than Jupiter.
Astronomers have already become good at detecting planets orbiting distant stars. They have found that planets are quite common and are probably a natural byproduct of star formation. In other words, most stars probably have planets.
The direct imaging of smaller and smaller planets may give astronomers the ability to see with their own eyes, earthlike planets as they orbit distant stars.
Of course, those images won't provide much photographic detail but rather they will simply show planets as points of light. Astronomers can filter that light to determine the chemical composition of a planet's atmosphere.
Astronomers will be looking for the telltale chemical signatures of life on other planets once this technique is perfected.
For now, astronomers are able to detect very large gas giants around stars by blocking out the light from parent stars. The method is similar to covering your eyes with your hand on a sunny day so you might see distant detail.
In addition to the planet's sheer size, it is also helpful that it orbits about 56 astronomical units from its star, which is 56 times the average distance between the Earth and the Sun or about twice the distance from the Sun and Neptune.
The image shows a planet orbiting the star HD 95086, a star of only 10 to 17 million years old. This suggests to astronomers that planet formation can occur early and quickly in the life of a star.
Astronomers want to study the planet and its parent star further to determine if the planet formed at that great distance, or if it was moved there by interactions with other gravitational influences.
The finding is due to be published in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters.
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Technology News
- NSA is piggybacking off private web tracking to ID and watch you, find targets
- IT'S TRUE: Americans have no right to privacy when they give information to a third party -- such as cell phone provider
- Evidence of an ancient freshwater lake on Mars discovered
- Mars One may stage ultimate anti-reality show where particpants vie to be voted OFF the planet to their demise
- NASA releases images of mysterious hexagon on Saturn
- Stanford researchers develop a way to literally read minds
- Report reveals FBI can remotely scan your computer without your knowledge
- Ultra-secret, Area-51 spy plane finally revealed to the public
- Micro-spacecraft plans to land on moon in 2015
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?