Thursday, November 13, 2008

First Extrasolar planets imaged from Earth

One distant star has three planets, another at least one. Not news perhaps, we've detected extrasolar planets before. But now we humans have out first-ever direct visual images of worlds far beyond out own. Two teams - one using the Hubble Space Telescope, the other a pair of telescopes in Hawaii - have given us these historic images.
The Hubble image shows the star Fomalhaut and a planet three times larger than Jupiter. The ground-based image showsthree much larger planets circling a star called HR 8799. (Don't despair if what you seek are "Class M" planets like ours: it's only logical that the first exoplanets we see will be the biggest ones. There may be a host of smaller ones around these same stars, waiting for our tools to grow sharper.)

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