Monday, September 15, 2008

Scientists get images of planet with sun-like star

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists have snapped the first images of a planet outside our solar system that is orbiting a star very much like the sun.

in findings announced on Monday, University of Toronto scientists said they used the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii to take direct pictures of the planet, which is about the size of Jupiter but with eight times the mass.

It is also much hotter than Jupiter, they said.

This planet and the star it seems to orbit are located in our Milky Way galaxy about 500 light years from Earth, the scientists said. A light year is about 6 trillion miles, or the distance light travels in a year.

"It's always been a goal to take a picture of a planet around another star. The challenge, of course, is that planets are much, much fainter than stars," Ray Jayawardhana, one of the scientists, said in a telephone interview.

Of all known extrasolar planets, this one is orbiting the furthest from its star. It is located roughly 11 times further from its star than Neptune -- the outermost planet in our solar system -- is located from the sun, the scientists said.

They said they are working to confirm that the planet is indeed orbiting this star as it appears, but it may take up to two years to get that data.

"The star is very typical. It's like the sun, just younger. But the planet is quite unusual. It's on the high end of the mass of the extrasolar planets found so far. And it's also very far away from its star," Jayawardhana added.

Before this, the only planets or similar objects that have been directly imaged outside of the solar system were either free-floating in space and not orbiting a star, or orbiting a brown dwarf, a failed star that did not reach the mass necessary to spark the nuclear fusion typical of a star.

The scientists said they benefited from technology that reduces distortions from turbulence in Earth's atmosphere.

Jayawardhana said the scientists have evidence of water and carbon monoxide in the planet's atmosphere. The planet is not thought to be a good candidate for extraterrestrial life because it appears to be a gas giant, a type of planet inhospitable to life, and because it is too young.

The star is considered a newborn, forming an estimated 5 million years ago. The sun is about 4-1/2 billion years old.

Creationists will say it's an image from Satan or whatever they want to make up in order to protect their beliefs that our billions of years-old planet is 6,000 years. Evidence is continuously proving their beliefs to be pure mythology.

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5 comments:

CyberKitten said...

Baby star with baby planet in tow.... Cool.

Wonder if there's any small rocky planets there?

tina FCD said...

Very interesting indeed.

Tommy said...

Pack up your bags folks, we're leaving!

CyberKitten said...

It might take a while to get there Tommy. 500 Light Years is a good distance!

Greg said...

Fascinating!
I've heard of the other method of the "wobble effect" of a planet's rotation around other stars and the planet effects that star, but an image like that PROVES that there are planets orbiting other stars.