PDA

View Full Version : Science First fuzzy photos of planets outside solar system


Donger
11-13-2008, 02:44 PM
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081113/ap_on_sc/sci_new_planets;_ylt=Asl_5R5uKjyHYoucWCUraGes0NUE

WASHINGTON Earth seems to have its first fuzzy photos of alien planets outside our solar system, images captured by two teams of astronomers. The pictures show four likely planets that appear as specks of white, nearly indecipherable except to the most eagle-eyed experts. All are trillions of miles away three of them orbiting the same star, and the fourth circling a different star.

None of the four giant gaseous planets are remotely habitable or remotely like Earth. But they raise the possibility of others more hospitable.

It's only a matter of time before "we get a dot that's blue and Earthlike," said astronomer Bruce Macintosh of the Lawrence Livermore National Lab. He led one of the two teams of photographers.

"It is a step on that road to understand if there are other planets like Earth and potentially life out there," he said.

Macintosh's team used two ground-based telescopes, while the second team relied on photos from the 18-year-old Hubble Space Telescope to gather images of the exoplanets planets that don't circle our sun. The research from both teams was published in Thursday's online edition of the journal Science.

In the past 13 years, scientists have discovered more than 300 planets outside our solar system, but they have done so indirectly, by measuring changes in gravity, speed or light around stars.

NASA's space sciences chief Ed Weiler said the actual photos are important. He compared it to a hunt for elusive elephants: "For years we've been hearing the elephants, finding the tracks, seeing the trees knocked down by them, but we've never been able to snap a picture. Now we have a picture."

In a news conference Thursday, Weiler said this fulfills the last of the major goals that NASA had for the Hubble telescope before it launched in 1990: "This is an 18 1/2-year dream come true."

There are disputes about whether these are the first exoplanet photos. Others have made earlier claims, but those pictures haven't been confirmed as planets or universally accepted yet. The photos released Thursday are being published in a scientifically prominent journal, but that still hasn't convinced all the experts. Alan Boss, an exoplanet expert at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and Harvard exoplanet hunter Lisa Kaltenegger both said more study is needed to confirm these photos are proven planets and not just brown dwarf stars.

MIT planetary scientist Sara Seager, at the NASA press conference, said earlier planetary claims "are in a gray area." But these discoveries, "everybody would agree is a planet," said Seager, who was not part of either planet-finding team.

The Hubble team this spring compared a 2006 photo to one of the same body taken by Hubble in 2004. The scientists used that to show that the object orbited a star and was part of a massive red dust ring which is usually associated with planets making it less likely to be a dwarf star.

Macintosh's team used ground-based telescopes to spot three other planets orbiting a different star. That makes it less likely they are a pack of brown dwarf stars.

The planet discovered by Hubble is one of the smallest exoplanets found yet. It's somewhere between the size of Neptune and three times bigger than Jupiter. And it may have a Saturn-like ring.

It circles the star Fomalhaut, pronounced FUM-al-HUT, which is Arabic for "mouth of the fish." It's in the constellation Piscis Austrinus and is relatively close by a mere 148 trillion miles away, practically a next-door neighbor by galactic standards. The planet's temperature is around 260 degrees, but that's cool by comparison to other exoplanets.

The planet is only about 200 million years old, a baby compared to the more than 4 billion-year-old planets in our solar system. That's important to astronomers because they can study what Earth and planets in our solar system may have been like in their infancy, said Paul Kalas at the University of California, Berkeley. Kalas led the team using Hubble to discover Fomalhaut's planet.

One big reason the picture looks fuzzy is that the star Fomalhaut is 100 million times brighter than its planet.

The team led by Macintosh at Lawrence Livermore found its planets a little earlier, spotting the first one in 2007, but taking extra time to confirm the trio of planets circling a star in the Pegasus constellation. They are about 767 trillion miles away, but are actually visible with binoculars. The star in this solar system is HR 8799, and the three planets are seven to 10 times larger than Jupiter, Macintosh said.

"I've been doing this for eight years and after eight years we get three at once," he said.

Donger
11-13-2008, 02:45 PM
This image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2006 and released on November 13, 2008 shows the newly discovered planet, Fomalhaut b (inset), orbiting its parent star, Fomalhaut. Astronomer Paul Kalas captured the first visible-light images of a planet some 25 light years from our solar system using a camera mounted on the Hubble telescope.

Buck
11-13-2008, 02:46 PM
Ummm....

http://www.ubergizmo.com/photos/2007/11/eye-o-sauron.jpg

Donger
11-13-2008, 03:44 PM
Ummm....

http://www.ubergizmo.com/photos/2007/11/eye-o-sauron.jpg

I did think the same thing, but...

kc rush
11-13-2008, 03:48 PM
Ummm....

http://www.ubergizmo.com/photos/2007/11/eye-o-sauron.jpg

I was thinking the same thing.

Still, its pretty cool.

CrazyPhuD
11-13-2008, 03:49 PM
Hmmm pretty cool has rings just like uranus.

Guru
11-13-2008, 03:51 PM
Hmmm pretty cool has rings just like uranus.What do you know about his anus?

kc rush
11-13-2008, 03:59 PM
What do you know about his anus?

You'd probably have to go back and check the dingleberry thread.

Donger
11-13-2008, 08:57 PM
I know that no one seems to care, but we might launch a shuttle into space tomorrow.

mikey23545
11-13-2008, 09:15 PM
I know that no one seems to care, but we might launch a shuttle into space tomorrow.

This is a key flight. With the equipment the shuttle is taking up to the ISS, they'll be able to support 6 astronauts at a time in the station by next year. This will allow for much greater manpower dedicated to research. Right now, with three crewmen at a time, most of the manpower is dedicated to routine maintenance and keeping the station running...Not much return on investment that way....

Bowser
11-13-2008, 09:15 PM
I know that no one seems to care, but we might launch a shuttle into space tomorrow.

Headed to one of these planets?

mikey23545
11-13-2008, 09:21 PM
Just out of curiosity, Donger...

You've spoken of your British heritage before...Do you have contact with any of your ex-countrymen on a regular basis? If so, what is their view of the American space program? Colossal waste of money, or grand exploration?

Just thought it would be interesting to know how other countries think of such things...

Rain Man
11-13-2008, 09:57 PM
Headed to one of these planets?

You figure it's only a matter of time before some rambuctious pilot goes maverick and heads for one.

Donger
11-13-2008, 10:10 PM
Just out of curiosity, Donger...

You've spoken of your British heritage before...Do you have contact with any of your ex-countrymen on a regular basis? If so, what is their view of the American space program? Colossal waste of money, or grand exploration?

Just thought it would be interesting to know how other countries think of such things...

Jealousy, mostly.

Groves
11-13-2008, 11:04 PM
It's only a matter of time before "we get a dot that's blue and Earthlike,"

This quote from the article sounds suspiciously like the faith-based statements that are mocked in the "scientific" world, like when creationists hold a position without total all-consuming verifiable evidence.

Ultra Peanut
11-14-2008, 03:51 AM
What do you know about his anus?He doesn't wash it frequently enough, if previous disclosures about his habits are any indication.