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First Pictures of an Exo-planet! November 14, 2008

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, planets.
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The Hubble space telescope released the first photograph of a planet around another star. Fomalhaut is a main sequence class A3 star about 25 light-years away . It’s the brightest star in the constellation Piscis Austrinus and one of the brightest stars in the night time sky.

fomalhaut_hst_lab

The planet is named Fomalhaut-b. It follows a path along the edge of a vast dust ring that surrounds the star. At a distance of about 17 billion kilometers from Fomalhaut, it takes an estimated 872 years to complete one orbit. The planet is 100,000,000 times fainter than Fomalhaut, so the Hubble team used the Advanced Camera’s coronagraph to block out the star’s glare so that the planet could be seen. The region around Fomalhaut is black becauseof this process. This composite image was taken between 2004 and 2006. Since the dust ring has not been disrupted by the mass of the planet, this constrains Fomalhaute-b to be no more than 3 times the mass of Jupiter.

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