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View Full Version : Discussion: First Direct Image of An Exoplanet?



Fraser
2004-Sep-10, 04:15 PM
SUMMARY: A team of European and US astronomers think they've taken the first direct image of a planet orbiting another star about 230 light-years away. Until now, planets have been discovered because of the effect they have on their parent star - they haven't been "seen" directly. Using the European Southern Observatory's 8.2-m telescope in Chile, the team found a faint, red object nearby a brown dwarf star called 2M1207. By analyzing the object with various instruments, they believe the object is approximately 5 times the mass of Jupiter. There's still some uncertainty, though, so the team will make regular observations over the next 2 years to see how its position and composition changes.

What do you think about this story? Post your comments below.

om@umr.edu
2004-Sep-10, 05:15 PM
It is great, if it turns out that they have actually "seen" a planet beyond the solar system.

However those only interested in the existence of rocky, Earth-like will be disappointed that this one is 5 times as massive as Jupiter.

With kind regards,

Oliver
http://www.umr.edu/~om

Namm
2004-Sep-10, 08:27 PM
if this is for real, it is a wonderful discovery :D

Guest
2004-Sep-10, 10:04 PM
Super-cool.
Of course such a large planet is likely to have sizeable terrestrial moons which could harbor life.
I was wondering if anything was said about the planet's orbital characteristics and mean surface temperature. It is likely to be a very cold place unless it orbits very close to the brown dwarf. But that does not exclude the scenario of tidal heating on such moons. Unfortunately it will not be a haven for chlorophyll harboring life forms as it is likely to be a very dim place as well. Too drab and dreary for me to want to visit there.

BLACK_MONOLITH
2004-Sep-11, 06:09 AM
this is great.. does this mean we will be imaging many more planets?

om@umr.edu
2004-Sep-11, 08:16 AM
Originally posted by BLACK_MONOLITH@Sep 11 2004, 06:09 AM
this is great.. does this mean we will be imaging many more planets?
Perhaps not.

The answer depends on how common planets are and whether our detection methods improve with time.

Planets orbiting other stars are generally too far away to "see."

Jupiter is over 300 times more massive than Earth.

This new "planet" is about 5 times more massive than Jupiter, or 1,500 times more massive than Earth.

The nearest star is about a hundred times closer than the brown dwarf star called 2M1207.

Time will tell.

With kind regards,

Oliver
http://www.umr.edu/~om

antoniseb
2004-Sep-11, 12:19 PM
Originally posted by Guest@Sep 10 2004, 10:04 PM
I was wondering if anything was said about the planet's orbital characteristics and mean surface temperature.
The article said the planet's outer temperature was 1800 degrees. This is because it is fairly new, nad still cooling off. It is in orbit at 55AU around a fairly low-mass brown dwarf, and so when this pair is a couple billion years old, it should be fairly frosty, and very hard to see.

As to the orbit, little is known except the current angular separation.

antoniseb
2004-Sep-11, 12:23 PM
Originally posted by om@umr.edu@Sep 11 2004, 08:16 AM
Time will tell.
I agree. The time required to build and use better tools for looking will tell. In twenty years we'll know how many Earth sized planets are around the nearest few hundred stars. The number could be zero, the number could be several per star, or anything in between.

Wouter
2004-Sep-11, 04:49 PM
To answer the question about whether we will be able to image more: If everything goes as planned, we will be able to image more extrasolar planets with the Large Binocular Telescope. It will have two 8,4 meter mirrors and is said to be 10 times as accurate as the Hubble Space Telescope. The two mirrors will be the equivalent of one 23 m (75,5 ft) in telescope.

The first mirror is already in place but I do not know when it will receive its first light using both mirrors.