Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Exoplanet Image - First from the Ground

Check out this image from 2008, recently confirmed to be a photograph of a planet around another star:

There have been some conflicting reports about this, as Bad Astronomy explains. I've seen it touted elsewhere as the first direct image of an exoplanet, but that's not the case. Rather, it is the first direct photograph of an exoplanet taken by a telescope on the ground.

Ground-based telescopes have traditionally been less well-suited for this type of work than space telescopes, as poor seeing creates distortions that blur out such faint objects. But as we mentioned a few days ago, adaptive optics are now starting to close the gap.

The planet, about 470 light-years away, is roughly 8 times the mass of Jupiter and orbits some 330 Astronomical Units (AU) from its star. That's more than 30 billion miles! By comparison, Pluto's average distance from our Sun is only about 39 AU.

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