September 20, 2008

Another Extrasolar Planet

The picture above is the first picture of a planet (top-left) orbiting a sun-like star. It was taken by the 270-inch diameter Gemini North Telescope, located on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

The star, 
1RXS J160929.1-210524, is located in the Scorpius constellation, 500 light-years away from Earth. This star is very similar to our Sun, but is younger.

However, more interesting is the planet that is orbiting that star. This planet has a mass 7 to 12 times larger than Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. It also lies 30 billion miles (48 million km) away from the star, 330 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

Yet, the importance of this discovery is not just in the comparison of this system to our own system. It is only the third candidate planet outside our solar system that has been photographed by us. The astronomers who have made this discovery are checking if the planet is moving with its star through space, confirming that is an actual planet. This may take many years.

Image: Gemini Observatory

No comments:

Post a Comment