Feeds

Extra-solar planet snapped by galactic paparazzi

Kinda blurry

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Ever wondered what a planet looks like from a distance of 225 light-years? No-one really knows, because no direct image has ever been taken before. But astronomers examining at data from the Very Large Telescope in Chile spotted a faint mark next to a young brown dwarf star.

On closer examination using Hubble's infrared cameras, they were able to classify it as a candidate planet, because it is only 100th the brightness of its stellar companion.

Hubble's artificial-colour view of the brown dwarf and giant planet companion candidate

Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) camera can make observations at wavelengths that would be invisible from the ground. Complementary images, taken at these shorter wavelengths, are important because they help characterise the physical nature of an object being observed.

The Hubble pictures were taken in August last year, and then compared with data from the earlier VLT observations. Astronomers needed to rule out the possibility that the planet candidate was merely a background object.

If the candidate planet does orbit the brown dwarf, then the pair will move across the sky together. Confirming this was made easier because the two objects are so far apart - approximately eight billion kilometres. This means the "planet" takes around 2,500 years to complete one orbit.

In four months of observation, this orbital movement would be so slight as to be undetectable from Earth. So any change in the relative positions of the two objects would immediately confirm the second object is in the background. The scientists did not detect any relative movement, providing reasonable evidence that the two bodies are companions.

Glenn Schneider of the University of Arizona says the measurements provide a "99 per cent level of confidence" that the planet candidate does orbit the brown dwarf. More observations with Hubble are planned to remove that remaining uncertainty, he says. ®

Related stories

NASA celebrates martian Spirit of adventure
Boffins issue stealth comet apocalypse alert
Supernova revealed in gamma rays

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.