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Yahoo! News Story - Another Extrasolar Planet Possibly Imaged - Yahoo! News

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  • Mark Holmes
    Mark Holmes (mahtezcatpoc@yahoo.com) has sent you a news article. (Email address has not been verified.) ... Personal message: Another Extrasolar Planet
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 27, 2008
      Mark Holmes (mahtezcatpoc@...) has sent you a news article.
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      Another Extrasolar Planet Possibly Imaged - Yahoo! News

      http://news.yahoo.com/s/space/20081125/sc_space/anotherextrasolarplanetpossiblyimaged

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    • mahtezcatpoc
      ... http://news.yahoo.com/s/space/20081125/sc_space/anotherextrasolarplane tpossiblyimaged Another Extrasolar Planet Possibly Imaged Jeanna Bryner Senior
      Message 2 of 2 , Nov 28, 2008
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        tpossiblyimaged


        Another Extrasolar Planet Possibly Imaged

        Jeanna Bryner
        Senior Writer
        SPACE.com

        – Tue Nov 25, 8:35 am ET

        Astronomers say they have directly imaged a giant exoplanet orbiting
        its parent star. The announcement comes on the heels of two other
        reports this month of direct images of planets beyond our solar
        system.


        The new infrared image shows the object as a speck of light near the
        star Beta Pictoris, which is 70 light-years from Earth, toward the
        constellation Pictor.


        "We cannot yet rule out definitively, however, that the candidate
        companion could be a foreground or background object," said study
        team member Gael Chauvin of Grenoble Observatory in France. "To
        eliminate this very small possibility, we will need to make new
        observations that confirm the nature of the discovery."


        Chauvin and other French astronomers discovered the candidate planet
        using the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope.
        The possible planet is estimated to weigh about eight times the mass
        of Jupiter with an orbit of eight astronomical units (AU) from its
        star, where one AU is the average Earth-sun distance.


        Astrophysicist Sara Seager of MIT, who was not involved in the latest
        discovery, said while the possibility is exciting, another more
        convincing image of the object is in order. "We want to make sure
        it's moving together with the star," Seager said.


        Another image would show whether the star is moving at a different
        speed relative to this object and other background objects or if the
        star and planet are moving together (which would help to confirm this
        is indeed a planet).


        Astronomers had thought a planet could be responsible for
        irregularities seen in the debris disk, first imaged in 1994,
        surrounding Beta Pictoris. As a planet treks around its star, the
        planet jostles and tugs on pieces of dust and debris, shaping the
        disk.


        "Beta Pic has been teasing astronomers for the past two decades with
        hints of an orbiting planet," said University of California,
        Berkeley, astronomer Paul Kalas, who was not directly involved with
        the study. Kalas led a team of astronomers who reported this month
        the first visible-light snapshot of a single-planet system around the
        star Fomalhaut.


        The researchers say the object does explain the warped disk. "The
        candidate companion has exactly the mass and distance from its host
        star needed to explain all the disk's properties," said team leader
        Anne-Marie Lagrange of the Grenoble Observatory.


        The team tried to rule out other non-planet possibilities. For
        instance, they looked at images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope
        of the system, which would likely reveal background and foreground
        objects.


        They also used three independent detection methods to rule out the
        possibility that the point source of light was just an artifact of
        the observing instrument.


        "Overall, this is an exciting discovery that could be verified in
        just a few weeks time since Beta Pictoris is a bright star visible
        during the winter months," Kalas told SPACE.com.


        Actually, Lagrange said the planet might not be visible with their
        instruments currently, because of the inclination of the orbit and
        how it is aligned. So from our perspective on Earth, the planet could
        travel too close to its star to be visible.


        The discovery will be detailed in a forthcoming letter to the editor
        in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.
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